‘Country girl from Dayton’ helped lay Lynx foundation

For 20 weeks, to commemorate the WNBA’s 20th season (the MSR having covered each season), the MSR sports section is featuring a column or article on the W in our “20 in 20” series. This week: watching the box scores

One can’t blame Tamika Williams Raymond if she keeps a daily watch on the league’s box scores. As a Minnesota Lynx forward-center, Williams set the WNBA single-season record for field goal percentage (66.8 percent) in 2003.wbna-20in20nobyline-336x202

If she stays on course, Los Angeles’ Nneka Ogwumike, who is hitting over 69 percent of her shots, will break Williams Raymond’s mark by at least five percentage points better. “I went to watch her play” during a recruiting trip, noted Raymond in a recent MSR phone interview. “I’ll play second fiddle” if Ogwumike does indeed break her record, she admits. “I am happy she is breaking it.”

Now in her first year as a Penn State assistant women’s basketball coach, Raymond’s place in W history is nonetheless secure.

Tamika Williams Raymond
Tamika Williams Raymond (Photo courtesy of the Lynx)

Her steal and layup with seven seconds remaining capped a league-first comeback win (trailing by as much as 21 points) in playoff history as Minnesota defeated Los Angeles 74-72 in the team’s first-ever post-season game in 2003, the same season she set the league shooting record.

“I remember that still,” noted Williams, now Raymond, of the play. “You look back at those moments and you know where the franchise was — the coaching turnover and the player turnover” she saw during her six seasons here.

She was Minnesota’s first pick in 2002 out of Connecticut and played five seasons for the Lynx before she was traded to Connecticut in 2008. Raymond currently is fourth on the team’s career rebounds list (1,028) behind Rebekkah Brunson (first) and Maya Moore (second). She still holds team individual records in career field goal percentage (.559) and season (.668); most offensive rebounds in a half (eight), tied with Brunson for most offensive rebounds in a game (10) and overtime (three).

Despite being 6’-1”, Raymond more than held her own as an undersized post player during her Minnesota days. “I remember in the first year, we struggled,” she said. “It wasn’t fun. Then we got some good pieces and [Hall of Fame point guard] Teresa Edwards comes back [out of retirement] and established some leadership on a team that was definitely underpowered.”

Her play nonetheless gave the Lynx a semblance of respectability as the franchise slowly moved from also-rans to contenders. “I’m just proud to say I had maybe two percent to do with building that foundation there,” said Raymond humbly.

“The movement was moving in the right direction. I think once they got all the right pieces together, it worked out to their advantage. I’m just happy for them.”

Raymond moved into coaching after she retired as a player. As a coach, she stresses the importance of making “high percentage shots.”

“It was something that separated me” from the other league forwards, said Raymond, who joked as she disclosed her secret for her on-court success: “It was my thighs.”

Asked about her standout memories as a WNBAer, Raymond said, “There are a million memories. You play against the best players in the world. Every night you look at somebody who could drop 20 [points] and 10 [rebounds] on you. You got pushed to a whole different level.

“I am excited to be a part of [the league],” said Raymond of its 20th season. “I wish it 20 more years.

“I’m just a country girl from Dayton, Ohio who dreamed to play on the big stage. Minnesota was wonderful to me. The league that I love has really affected the collegiate level in giving young girls the dream [to play pro ball in the U.S.].

“I want to stay here at Penn State and produce more players who can play [in the league].”


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