Sure enough, the Lynx lost future Hall-of-Famer Sylvia Fowles for all but seven games of the regular season and Karima Christmas-Kelly to a season-ending injury. Both initial starters in Minnesota's backcourt also went down with early injuries.
Someone had to step up. Dangerfield was ready.
Dangerfield secured a starting spot by the third game and would not relinquish it. She finished the regular season as the team's top scorer (a hair better than Collier at 16.2 points per game) on 47% shooting - better marks than what she posted in her senior season at UConn. Her eight 20-point games were also a team-best.
"It was fortuitous for Crystal that (she was) thrown right into it," Auriemma said. "You have no choice. You can't (say), 'Well, can I just play my role?' No. You have to play a big role. ... Sometimes you don't know what you have until you throw them out there."
"She went, in a very unusual season, a very difficult season to perform well, and she did it," Montgomery said. "It was a fast-paced season. Usually for a rookie, that's not good because the more time they can get, the better, to learn the system, to learn what it's like to play in the WNBA. ... You could try to just ease your way into the position, you could just try to have an okay season and survive your rookie year. She didn't try to do any of the above. She went out there and she killed it."
In Minnesota's single-elimination playoff game against the Phoenix Mercury, Dangerfield overcame a slow start to score 15 second-half points, finishing as Minnesota's second-leading scorer in an 80-79 win.
Things will only get tougher for Dangerfield vs. the No. 2 Seattle Storm in a best-of-five semifinal series. This is playoff basketball, and she'll face more defensive attention than ever before. And once this season is over, the focus will turn to expanding the ways in which Dangerfield can impact the game beyond scoring. "Believe me," Reeve said, "my list is long."
Dangerfield doesn't want to rest on her rookie season success. She'll keep setting the bar high for herself moving forward.
And maybe, just maybe, she'll continue to surprise herself.
"It's really just me going out there and playing basketball," Dangerfield said. "That's all it's ever been."
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