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

The parallels are readily apparent. Coach Geno Auriemma has led Husky teams to 11 national titles. Under Reeve, Minnesota won four championships in nine years, the most of any active WNBA franchise. UConn legend Maya Moore, currently on a sabbatical from basketball but a career member of the Lynx, was a huge part of that run.

After the draft, Reeve described former Huskies as "plug-and-play players" who are groomed for success by Auriemma's demanding program. But Reeve downplays the notion that former Huskies shine any brighter under her tutelage, insisting that players like Moore and Collier would've done just as well with different franchises.

Those who have played for both teams however see the UConn-Lynx connection as more than coincidence. The cultures in Storrs and Minnesota - Dangerfield, Collier and former Lynx guard Renee Montgomery all say - are incredibly similar. Reeve favors a disciplined, no-nonsense approach, demands accountability and promotes a team-first environment.

"I think that's a reason why we do so well," Collier said. "The transition is really nice and pretty easy for us because it feels so much like college in what their expectation level is and what their goal is for the team. Everything is 100 percent team-oriented, which I don't think you necessarily see all the time especially in a professional league like this."

As Auriemma sees it, Reeve goes the extra mile to evaluate players. And rather than fixating on talent, she tries to assess how a player would fit into her organization. She also does her homework, contacting coaches like Auriemma to find out all she can about potential draftees.

Reeve's pre-draft intel indicated that Dangerfield would likely still be around for Minnesota with the 16th pick, allowing her to prioritize a front-court need in the first round. Dangerfield may have been disappointed that no one took her sooner, but Reeve couldn't have been happier.


"Crystal should have gone in the first round, but the fact that she didn't ended up really, really, really helping her," Auriemma said. "She ended up on the right team, in the right system with the right teammates to allow her to do what she does best."

"For someone like myself," Dangerfield said, "this is exactly what I needed."


In her first weeks with the Lynx, Dangerfield's "tremendous thirst for information" and passion stood out, Reeve said. The rookie requested one-on-one time outside of team meetings to speak with Reeve about what she should focus on prior to training camp. The coach told her come to Florida ready to knock down three-pointers, finish at the rim and hit mid-range shots and floaters. Dangerfield would also have to get accustomed to working in more of a pick-and-roll system.


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