All of 2020 has been unpredictable due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic: the 2020 WNBA Virtual Draft was no different.
One of the most surprising things that occurred on draft night was that UConn’s Crystal Dangerfield was left unpicked in the First Round. Then, with the sixteenth overall pick , the Minnesota Lynx took the opportunity to reunite former Husky teammates Dangerfield and Napheesa Collier.
How the 5’5” guard fell through the cracks is still unclear, but it was a blessing in disguise for the rookie. “You can either pout because you went 16,” Dangerfield told media at the end of the season. “Or you can go play.”
Play, she did.
The 2020 WNBA season was unlike any other: Players were asked to leave their home cities and unite in Bradenton, Fla and participate in a WNBA “bubble” in order for the season to take place amid the pandemic. Players arrived in early July, participated in their team’s training camp, then finally began their seasons at the end of July. As hectic and strange as things were for everyone in the bubble, let alone a rookie, opportunities began to present themselves for No. 2.
In Dangerfield’s debut with the team, the rookie guard came off the bench and put up 10 points in Minnesota’s season-opening win over the Connecticut Sun. In only the third game of her career, Dangerfield was thrust into the starting lineup due to injury, and she held her starting spot for the remainder of the season. What everyone soon realized was that the 2020 WNBA Coach of the Year Cheryl Reeve knew exactly what she was doing when she selected Crystal Dangerfield in the Second Round, and that the rookie was exactly what the team needed.
What the team needed most was someone to guide them offensively, and Dangerfield delivered, finishing the season as the Lynx’s leading scorer with 16.2 points per game. She was absolutely fearless on the court; all while guarding opponents like Sue Bird and Skylar Diggins-Smith that have grown to be legends in the league. Toward the end of the season, Dangerfield became known for her rallies in the second half, most notably in the Lynx’s one-point win over the Phoenix Mercury to advance out of the Second Round of the WNBA Playoffs . In that game specifically, Dangerfield scored 15 of her 17 points in the game in the second half to propel her team to the WNBA Semifinals.
The rookie continuously stepped up in a role that was made for her. She took the lead on the court, she made her shots, she found open teammates for assists (75 times this regular season, to be exact), all while staying incredibly humble. The second she stepped on the court in a blue Minnesota Lynx jersey, you could see that she was exactly where belonged, and her teammates couldn’t agree more.
“She’s been so great for our team,” Collier told media at the end of the season. “Her heart is so big, just the way she plays, just flying her body around. I always knew Crystal had that in her. You could see it at UConn. But she’s really embraced that role on the Lynx. … It’s just the beginning for her.”
When the time came to award the 2020 Rookie of the Year, Dangerfield’s name was at the front and center for potential candidates. Of the 47 votes placed in determining the recipient of the award, Dangerfield had 43 votes in her favor.
In accepting the award, Dangerfield remained her modest self: “It wasn’t my goal to come in and win this,” she said of the honor. “I wanted to win games. I guess my play stood out.”
Crystal Dangerfield officially made history by becoming the lowest draft pick ever to be named the WNBA Rookie of the year. She deserved to win, and everyone knew it.
At the end of the day, there are two things one can be 100% sure about in 2020: Crystal Dangerfield was destined to be the WNBA Rookie of the Year, but most importantly, she was destined to be a Minnesota Lynx.
Crystal Dangerfield By The Numbers
Crystal Dangerfield Gallery