Gopher reunion offers players a chance to reminisce

SOECharlesHallmansquareMost college and high school reunions involve a lot of swapping tall tales. One would love to be in the room when the U of M women basketball players from the various eras get together to tell theirs.

“This is something I’ve been doing ever since I graduated,” noted Crystal Flint (1989-94), a key member of the Gophers’ first NCAA tournament team in 1994.

Crystal Flint
Crystal Flint

The annual Gopher hoops alumni get-together was held during the first weekend of 2016. Players from five decades of Minnesota women hoops, beginning with the 1970s, were introduced during halftime of the January 3 Minnesota-Penn State contest.

Unfortunately, we didn’t see too many Black alums this year — only three were in attendance that afternoon.

“I am really surprised,” admitted Flint, the Boston-area native who has remained in the area ever since and is in her first year as North High School’s head girls’ basketball coach. “It seemed like my era was the least represented today.”

Kim Bell (1998-02) at 6’-7” was one of the tallest Gophers who ever wore the school colors. Unfortunately, she and her teammates, including Lindsay Whalen (2000-04), saw more bad times than good before the program righted itself and once again became a winning situation.

That occurred in 2002, Bell’s senior year, when Minnesota made the NCAAs for the first time in eight years. “It seems like another lifetime,” noted Bell, a Minneapolis Washburn graduate, at the reunion.

Bell has worked with youth since graduating from the U. She and Whalen were teammates for two seasons. “She’s a heck of a player and person. One of my favorite people. Super, super fun to play with,” said Bell of Whalen.

Kim Bell (l) and Lindsay Whalen
Kim Bell (l) and Lindsay Whalen

“Kim, along with Lindsay Lieser (1999-03) — their leadership was huge for us,” recalled Whalen, who is enjoying her pro off-season at home rather than playing overseas this winter, on having Bell as a teammate. “They kept us in line, and kept us going in the right direction. That year we turned it around.”

“These girls were like my family,” added Bell. “I love them and will always have that bond.”

“Once you are done, you are alum,” says Whalen, now a Minnesota Lynx. “But to come back for this [alumni] weekend, it is awesome and great. To be able to come back and be a part of a weekend like this, you just try to take it in, have fun, and go over stories…and to hang out for a while.”

“I am glad that the various [U of M] coaches have continued to do this,” said Flint, “because it is really important for people to know that there were others before the Whalens.”

 

Globe-tracking the Lynx  

These Lynx players all saw action this past weekend: Renee Montgomery (Canberra), Maya Moore (Shanxi), Sylvia Fowles (Beijing), Devereaux Peters (Wista Can-Pack Krakow), Shae Kelley (Energa Torun), Anna Cruz (Nadezhda Orenburg), and Rebekkah Brunson (Passalacqua).

In recent action: Fowles and Moore each had double-doubles performances in winning efforts for their respective Chinese clubs — Fowles (22 points, 15 rebounds) and Moore (43 points, 12 rebounds).

In EuroLeague play, Peters grabbed six boards and blocked four shots in a win. Cruz hit for 18 points in a winning effort for her club; Seimone Augustus scored six points, passed for six assists, and grabbed five rebounds in a Dynamo Kursk win.

 

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.