The MSR is the only local media that has covered the Minnesota Lynx from the start of its 25-year existence, as the team became the Twin Cities’ most successful pro franchise. Before this season, the team chose its top 25 players in Lynx history and held their 25th-anniversary celebration the weekend of June 9-11, where the MSR spoke to several of the honored players. This week: Janel McCarville (2012-14, 2016)
Sports Odds and Ends
It was a familiar sight—Janel McCarville and Lindsay Whalen in a celebratory embrace as Gopher teammates after a big win. They shared another such moment as professional players after their championship win together during McCarville’s first season with the Minnesota Lynx.
The two former Gopher greats, both recruited and signed by Cheryl Littlejohn, the second Black coach in school history, reached a Final Four (2004), together before the 6’2” McCarville became the top overall pick in the WNBA draft in 2005, by Charlotte. She spent two seasons there before the franchise folded and was picked up by New York in the dispersal draft.
After five Liberty seasons, in 2013, McCarville rejoined her old college mate when Minnesota traded for her in a multi-team trade. Although she was on the downside of her career and besieged with back problems that eventually forced her retirement, McCarville more than adequately filled the middle left by Taj McWilliams-Franklin’s retirement. Her deft passing and timely rebounding were invaluable. And whenever a bucket or two was needed, she contributed as a veteran post player.
She did the job and earned her first and only WNBA ring with Minnesota in 2013. She played the following season before announcing that her back pain was such that she could not play in the 2015 season. But McCarville did return and played her final season in 2016, and then retired.
McCarville’s other honors included 2007 Most Improved Player and 2010 EuroLeague champion where she competed for several overseas clubs. Getting named to the Lynx All-25 team is a no-brainer. McCarville was a fan favorite and a hard worker. Only her back problems kept her from doing more.
“It is just about the memories,” she told us. “The players I was with and the friendships, you can take that forever.
“Just like a championship,” the always upbeat McCarville continued, “no one can take that away from you. I only got one of those. But I know I have memories of the players I was with on that championship. Memories that will last a lifetime.”
A tough competitor on the court, McCarville’s bone-crunching midcourt picks to free up her guards in college are legendary. The retired player was also a free spirit off the court and at times could drive her coaches nuts.
While in New York, McCarville decided not to report to training camp and the league suspended her for the entire 2011 season, which left a sour taste with Liberty fans’ for her remaining time on the team. The Liberty fans didn’t appreciate it when McCarville announced in 2012, that she again was taking the summer off to spend time with her family.
Not surprisingly, when it was announced earlier this year that McCarville was a varsity girls coach, some eyes rolled. Many forgot that she had coached youngsters overseas a few years ago in Sweden and enjoyed it.
Now McCarville is beginning her first year as head coach of the girls varsity team at Stevens Point (Wis.) Area Senior High School, her alma mater. She graduated in 2001. She moved back home and coached the school’s junior varsity team in 2022.
“I think it will be a great fit,” said McCarville after working a scheduled youth basketball clinic during the team’s 25-year celebration weekend in June. “It’s the school I went to, so it’s full circle.”
We shared another laugh when asked if her team knows what a player she was. “No,” replied McCarville. “They Googled me on the first day they met me. They were in diapers when I was doing what I was doing.”
Next: The dynasty years