Minnesota Lynx Coach Cheryl Reeve speaks on newest teammates post-WNBA draft

Minnesota Lynx v Los Angeles Sparks
Head coach Cheryl Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx looks on during warm ups before a game against the Los Angeles Sparks at Crypto.com Arena on May 17, 2022, in Los Angeles, Calif.
Meg Oliphant | Getty Images

Two young athletes are starting a fresh chapter in their basketball careers as the newest members of the Minnesota Lynx following Monday night’s WNBA Draft.

Thanks to the Caitlin Clark effect — along with other star players like Angel Reese and Kamilla Cardoso — this was one of the most anticipated women’s basketball drafts in years.

“For those of us that have been doing this for the better part of 25 years, this is the movement that we’re experiencing, that we all thought was possible if we could invest in women’s sports in a way that was comparable to how we invest in men’s sports,” Lynx Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations Cheryl Reeve told MPR News on Tuesday morning.

“I think the timing of someone like Caitlin Clark is really incredible to sort of maximize the movement that had already begun,” Reeve said. “And we saw that in the NBA with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.”

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Minnesota had the eighth and 31st overall picks. The Lynx selected forward Alissa Pili of the University of Utah in the first round and guard Kiki Jefferson of the University of Louisville in the third round.

Two women pose for a photo
Utah's Alissa Pili (right) poses for a photo with WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert after being selected eighth overall by the Minnesota Lynx during the first round of the WNBA basketball draft on Monday in New York.
Adam Hunger | AP

Reeve said Pili and Napheesa Collier will be the Lynx’s “power forwards,” despite their slightly shorter-than-traditional stature at 6-foot-2 and 6-1 respectively.

Pili is originally from Anchorage and is of Alaska Native and Samoan descent.

“A lot of Indigenous and Polynesian girls don’t get to see that role model and I am just so blessed I can be in that position to be that for them,” Pili said in an interview after the draft.

Jefferson “rounded out our training camp roster” for the Lynx, according to Reeve. She played in all 34 of the Cardinals’ games and started in 32 of them.

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced Monday she wants the league to expand from 12 teams to 18 by 2028. A San Francisco franchise is set to join the league next year. Engelbert said Denver, Nashville, Oregon, Philadelphia, Portland, South Florida and Toronto are up for future consideration.

“It’s a long time coming, we’ve been at 12 for entirely too long,” Reeve said, pointing to high interest in buying WNBA teams at good valuations. “A lot of great things are coming together for our league.”

In southern Greece on Tuesday, the Olympic flame was kindled at the ancient site where the games began. The Summer Games start in July — and Reeve will be there, coaching the U.S. women’s basketball team.

She said preparations for Paris are going well and the team just finished a training camp. But for now, Reeve’s focus is on getting the Lynx ready for their first preseason game on May 4 against the Chicago Sky at Target Center. Training camp begins April 28.

“Spring has sprung,” Reeve said. “I look outside and I see all that’s coming out of the ground and all the beautiful flowers and stuff. That only means it’s WNBA season. It’s time to go.”