In the 2018 WNBA Draft, the Lynx selected Ji-Su Park and Khalia Lawrence with the 17th and 24th picks, respectively, before trading both players to the Las Vegas Aces for the 32nd overall selection Jill Barta and the Aces’ 2019 second-round selection. With the 36th pick, the Lynx selected University of Minnesota’s Carlie Wagner.
The team’s decision to trade two of their draft picks was based in the idea that for a team with such a strong core of returning players, draft capitol might have more value in future years, and as GM and coach Cheryl Reeve saw how the draft was playing out, she made the decision to consolidate the team’s assets.
Barta is a 6-3 forward out of Gonzaga who averaged 18.8 points on 48.7-percent shooting and 8.3 rebounds her redshirt junior year before forgoing her redshirt senior season to enter the draft. She was named the 2018 WCC Player of the Year, and finishes her college career with three All-WCC First Team selections. Barta holds a degree in Special Education and Early Child Development.
Barta brings a different element to the Lynx in her ability to stretch the floor from the power forward position. She is a shooter who shot 38.1 percent from beyond the arc last year.
“[Barta is] more perimeter oriented,” said Reeve, “She can play inside but her success would come from being able to stretch the defense. For Gonzaga she was inside out, played on the move, so this is an interesting skillset we wanted to bring in.”
Wagner is a Minnesota native who many Lynx fans were hoping to see drafted by the team. The 5-10 guard finished her career third on the Gophers’ all-time career scoring list and second in three-pointers made. She also started 118 straight games to end her career—the third-longest streak in the history of the program. Wagner was named to the All-Big Ten First Team her senior season with the team.
Wagner was thrilled to be drafted, but being chosen by her hometown team makes the moment that much more special.
“Being a Minnesota girl and growing up here and choosing to stay home through college was huge, so to be able to stay home professionally is a dream come true,” she said.
While the quality of the Lynx team might make it harder for Wagner to make the final roster, the chance to from players who have experienced the success that Minnesota has is very valuable.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to be able to play under teammates and people that have won multiple national championships like this,” said Wagner. “They’re the elite, the best of the best, so to be able to play with them and learn from them and have them as mentors to teach me and to be able to use and absorb that is incredible.”
Reeve acknowledged that Wagner is going to have to work hard to make the team, but over several years of watching Wagner at the U of M, the young guard has made an impression.
“Carlie can score,” Reeve said. “That kid just has a knack to put the ball in the hole. I think she’s grown from freshman to her senior year, and I just told her when I spent some time with her that probably my favorite part is she’s so coachable. She is unflappable in the way a coach communicates with her.”