Aerial Powers had her pick of almost any team in the WNBA during her first taste of free agency this winter. In the prime of her career at age 27, she already has one WNBA Championship following her contributions with the Washington Mystics.
Hungry for more, Powers wanted to join a championship culture already in place. With four championships in the past 10 years, Powers felt Minnesota Lynx Head Coach and General Manager Cheryl Reeve offered the best opportunity to take her game to the next level and another ring (or more).
“When I started my career in Dallas, I wasn’t sure, I wasn’t too sure… ‘What was it that built a championship team?’” Powers wondered aloud about what made the Lynx appealing during a Zoom call with media on Tuesday. “I didn’t know, I was young. Coming out of college, we hadn’t won a national championship. In those years [since], I feel like I matured — not only on the court, but off the court.
“What appealed to me most was for [Reeve] to [win a WNBA championship] four times, people really realize how amazing that is.”
For Powers, it wasn’t just Reeve’s coaching, but the culture that trickles down through her star-studded coaching staff and is passed on to every player on the Lynx roster.
“Not only do you have to have the right culture, but you have to have players that invest and trust in you, and that’s very hard,” Powers explained. “For me being in Dallas, and then to D.C., I saw a lot of different personalities, right? A lot of different personalities from coaches, a lot of different personalities from the coaching staff, to players. The one thing that stuck out to me most is culture. If players really buy-in to each other and they really trust each other and you really build this culture around the team that’s like loving and like ‘Hey, I got your back.’ That’s what builds championship teams. For me, I see that in Coach Reeve and also in her players. It speaks for itself. The championships speak for themselves. That’s really what appealed to me, they have that culture.
“But the top dog, which is Coach Reeve, she’ll make sure that order stays in line and that’s important to me.”
Reeve’s interest in Powers dates back to her collegiate career at Michigan State. Though there was trade interest during Powers’ time with Dallas and Washington, Reeve knew that this winter was the prime opportunity to acquire the unrestricted free agent.
“It all started at Michigan State, when I watched her play there,” Reeve said of her interest in the 2019 WNBA Champion. “AP has a way of playing the game that is just fun to watch. I don’t mean her skillset, I mean the energy that she gives to it. You see great joy when Aerial plays the game, so you enjoy watching someone play. That particular year in the Draft, we weren’t going to have a shot at AP. [Powers] ended up in Dallas, and I remember feeling disappointed when Aerial got traded to Washington because I didn’t know she was on the market, and we would’ve loved to have a shot at her then.”
Reeve continued:”This is just great timing for us. Five years under her belt, she understands exactly what has to happen for our team to be successful.”
With the signings of Powers, three-time All-Star Kayla McBride and veteran post Natalie Achonwa, the Lynx have arguably the WNBA’s top free agent class. Joining back-to-back Rookie of the Year winners Napheesa Collier and Crystal Dangerfield, 2017 Most Valuable Player Sylvia Fowles, and a cast of top-tier role players, championships are a top priority in Minnesota for the foreseeable future. For Powers, that made Minnesota an obvious choice.
“When Cheryl told me about all these pieces , it’s just like ‘How can we not win a championship!?‘” Powers exclaimed.
“Where do I sign?”