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How UConn's Crystal Dangerfield went from second-round draft pick to WNBA rookie of the year

By Alexa Philippou, The Hartford Courant on

Published in Basketball

As the 2020 WNBA draft unfolded, Crystal Dangerfield sat in her home in Murfreesboro, Tenn., waiting ... then waiting some more ... waiting longer than she had ever really anticipated.

Most projections had the 5-foot-5 Dangerfield, a three-year starting point guard out of UConn, getting taken in the middle or late in the first round. But here Dangerfield was - still around after the first round, after the 13th pick, then the 14th, then the 15th - before she was finally drafted 16th by Minnesota.

Dangerfield didn't understand why she dropped as far as she did, but she didn't allow herself to dwell on it any longer.

"I was like, 'You can either pout because you went 16, or you can go play,'" Dangerfield said.

That's exactly what she did. A confluence of determination and opportunity helped Dangerfield emerge as a major force for the short-handed Lynx, the No. 4 seed heading into the WNBA playoffs. And she became the first second-rounder to capture the league's rookie of the year award.

Along the way, she's not only surpassed others' expectations, including those of her own coach, Cheryl Reeve. She's far exceeding ones she had for herself.

 

"I'm still kind of mind blown," Dangerfield told The Courant before she was crowned rookie of the year. "Obviously, I wanted to come in and have an impact and be what my team needed me to be, whatever the minutes were going to look like. But if you had told me, 'You're probably going to be playing 30-plus minutes in some of these games, have the ball in your hands as much as you do,' I wouldn't have believed it, honestly."

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As surprising as Dangerfield's drop in the draft was, the destination made perfect sense.

For one, with Odyssey Sims out for at least part of the season after giving birth in April, most figured the Lynx could use a true point guard. But Minnesota also has a rich history with UConn players - their 2015 championship team alone featured four former Huskies - and the connection was fortified when Reeve drafted former Husky teammates Napheesa Collier (last year's rookie of the year) and Dangerfield in successive years.

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