Evina Westbrook thrown into fire in rookie season with Lynx
But through 10 games, the wing has entrenched herself as a cog in the Lynx’s machine through her production and versatility.
Evina Westbrook was drafted in the second round by Seattle, then cut during the Storm’s camp. That’s the end of the story for a lot of draft picks. It’s difficult to make it in the WNBA with just 12 teams and small, hyper-talented rosters.
But Minnesota’s injury issues were the UConn product’s gain. The Lynx’s early season roster didn’t shape up the way Cheryl Reeve envisioned. And injuries and late arrivals left the Lynx scrambling to fill a roster.
Helping to round it out was Westbrook, who initially was added via a hardship exemption, but then because of League technicalities, had to be inked to a season-long deal.
Westbrook has taken advantage of her preseason fortune. Through 10 games, the wing has entrenched herself as a cog in the Lynx’s machine through her production and versatility.
In Thursday’s loss in Atlanta, Westbrook was both guarding rookie sensation Rhyne Howard as well as playing heavy point guard minutes for Minnesota.
“It’s a young player that, as I told our staff, is being thrown into some situations,” Reeve said. “We just keep giving her more, and she’s been handling that well.”
And while Westbrook seems to be handling it in stride, she is not hiding from the fact that it’s been “hard.”
“I’d definitely be lying if I said it wasn’t. There’s a lot going through my mind,” Westbrook said. “I’m messing up.”
Which is to be expected. But Westbrook has received valuable support from her teammates, who were in similar spots earlier in their careers, and is cherishing the coaching and guidance she’s received from Reeve and Co.
“I love being coached, I love that she’s on me and stuff like that. And I take that and I try to just figure it out as much as possible,” Westbrook said. “But for me, because it’s so much, I just try to literally take it day by day.”
Westbrook said she’s still trying to figure out her role on the team, while also trying to play within herself and grow her confidence.
“I feel like I just feel really rushed sometimes, and I’m just trying to get through the play or look for this or look for that, which they want me to just go out and play. They want me to be myself, but it’s hard when I have 100 million things going through my mind, and I’m new to this and I’m trying to figure it out,” Westbrook said. “At the same time, they know what I’m going through, they know what I’m thinking and feeling. They don’t want me to think as much, and more just to play. I feel like as the games have gone by I’ve definitely gotten more comfortable, and I’ve had to step up, had to grow up and not really be considered a rookie, even though I am. But no, it’s been a long learning process, but day by day.”
That would be the case even if Westbrook was only playing her more natural wing position. But Moriah Jefferson’s quadricep injury left Westbrook as the backup point guard option behind Rachel Banham. The responsibilities continue to pile onto Westbrook’s plate.
While point guard might not be her primary position, Reeve did note Westbrook sold herself as a lead guard during the draft process. And even before the Atlanta game, there had been moments when the rookie would initiate Minnesota’s offense.
“She’s comfortable doing that, and she did that at UConn, and she identified herself that way,” Reeve said. “So I don’t think it’s as maybe eye popping or whatever for her when we had the conversation of, ‘OK, you initiate a little bit.’ She said, ‘OK, that’s what I’ll do.’ ”
Reeve always talks to her players about carving out value in the league. Westbrook does that partially through her positional versatility — a near must-have in modern basketball. She can legitimately play either guard spot or small forward. Reeve said Westbrook is doing what she can to make the most of her responsibility.
“I like the experience she’s getting and I think it’ll be helpful,” Reeve said, “obviously to her, and hopefully to us at some point.”
This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.