Star Tribune’s Jr Reporter program was developed to give aspiring journalists first hand experience in sports reporting.
Students with ThreeSixty Journalism attended the Lynx game on July 6th and participated in the activities of real media members. Prepared with a topic for their story, students were given access to players, staff, and media members to complete their assignments.
Read their stories below!
How do Lynx Players Find Balance?
These professional athletes use their spare time in more common ways than you think.
By Wakan Austin, Edison High School ‘23
The Minnesota Lynx were preparing Wednesday at Target Center in Minneapolis to take on the best team in the Eastern Conference. That’s a stressor, for a team that’s 8-15 and at the bottom of the Western Conference. The stands also brought a different atmosphere since they were packed with tons of youth from camp for an afternoon game.
So what’s a woman to do about the stress?
It turns out the Lynx players relax in the same ways most people do. Superstar Sylvia Fowles addressed that in the locker room after the Lynx defeated the Chicago Sky with two words: “Me time.”
“It gives me time to think about myself,” she said. “In basketball you always have to think about everybody else. So you’re always pretty much last. All of those things give me time to just think about myself.”
Lynx players face similar problems and find similar solutions as everyday people because their salaries are more in line with the typical American. The average salary of a person in Minnesota is $71,656; Lynx guard Rachel Baham’s average salary is only $485 more than that.
Banham, 28, is playing right near home. She’s from Lakeville, Minn., played for the University of Minnesota and ended her college career with 3,093 points. She’s engaged to former Minnesota Gophers men’s player Andre Hollins. She spends her “me time” in a very familiar way, especially after more than two years of being inside during a pandemic.
“Watch Netflix, have dinner with my fiancé and do chill things.” she said. “Yeah, try to kind of like keep them separate, job and regular life.”
Kayla McBride, a 30-year-old guard, set school records at Notre Dame in career points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots. She considers herself a “foodie” and said, “I love to cook, that’s something that I do. Hanging out. My family comes out a lot, TV shows that I like, all different types of things. I love going out to eat and finding cool places. I’m a big foodie. So finding good restaurants.”
Fowles is a 36-year-old center who stands 6 feet, 6 inches and weighs 217 pounds. She’ll be retiring as one of the greats in the WNBA. So how does a woman who knocks over other athletes for a living relax?
“I’m into like arty stuff,” she said. “So I do a lot of journaling and a lot of meditation. I’m in this space now where I do a lot of knitting and crocheting.”
There is one more thing that WNBA players are known to do in their free time. The league is filled with activists. The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports gave the WNBA a perfect score for race and gender, indicating the prominence of women and minorities in the league. When Lynx President Carley Knox was confronted with the question of how she sees the daily life of Lynx players, she brought up that other factor that makes the WNBA special.
“The WNBA itself is an act of activism, and all the players reflect that,” she said.
Lynx Know All Eyes are on Them
Players hope to set an example for the youth through community leadership
By Zaara Nayak, Mounds Park Academy ‘23
Moriah Jefferson scored six points and had five steals as the Lynx beat the Chicago Sky on Wednesday, but the matchup held a special significance for the guard beyond the win. Facing Jefferson on the opposing sideline was Candace Parker, the two-time WNBA MVP, who inspired Jefferson at a young age.
Parker’s domination of the league as a Black woman had a big impact on Jefferson.
“Growing up, it was really important for me to be able to see people that looked like me and not only the people of my color, but also women,” Jefferson said. “So growing up watching players like Candace Parker, and then now getting the chance to play against her, I always want to make sure that I got my best foot forward. You never know who’s watching.”
Jefferson is one of many Lynx players who advocates for causes on and off the court. Although they advocate for different issues, their activism has one thing in common: the desire to uplift the youth who may be watching them in the spotlight, like Jefferson did with Parker.
“It’s not just basketball, just being open to other opportunities because they’re going to get older and they’re going to be decision makers,” Lynx guard-forward Aerial Powers said. “It matters what they see.”
Powers is the Chair of Diversity of Inclusion Task Force for Team Liquid, a professional e-sports gaming organization, and uses this platform to create room for young women in a traditionally male-dominated field. Through her Twitch channel, Powers broadcasts herself playing games such as NBA 2K and Call of Duty. Both on and off the court, Powers inspires the younger generation by being her authentic self.
“I think it’s always good when kids of color can see women or anybody of color playing at a high level and doing things that they maybe aspire to do,” Powers said.
The Lynx, as a team, interact with the youth in the community, specifically those who are underrepresented.
Lynx President of Business Operations Carley Knox said the team hosts special nights for the LGBTQ+ and Native American communities. It also held an event geared toward Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and a game in honor of Title IX, the law that gave women increased opportunities in sports.
They hosted a Camp Day on Wednesday when youth groups attended the game and had the chance to meet players.
Coach Cheryl Reeve said Camp Day was important to empower the youth, especially young women, to pursue opportunities that were initially not available to them.
“We’re going to be super excited about the 1000s of young people that we’re going to impact today,” Reeve said. “Not only through our efforts on the basketball court, but just showing them what’s possible … understanding that women are equal to men, and this opportunity is the same.”
Camp Days are an extension of what the players do to impact the community beyond the arena. It’s important for the players to work individually with children.
“[Children] don’t necessarily get a lot of opportunities to be around athletes or get opportunities to be in camp,” Lynx guard Rachel Banham said.
Banham treasures the time she interacts with the youth, like when she plays one on one or other basketball games with them at Camp Day.
“That always is so much fun to me because I feel like I’m one of the kids and I feel like they kind of look at you, ‘Oh, you’re a normal human being,’ which is really cool,” Banham said.
The Lynx know how their celebrity can impact those who are watching them.
“These kids are the future generation,” Powers said. “They’re going to be leaders.”
They were once looking up to their own role models, and they know how important that example can be.
Game Day: Behind the Scenes
A lot of work happens behind the scenes to make Minnesota Lynx games happen.
By Gwynnevere Vang, University of St. Thomas ‘26
ThreeSixty Journalism Scholar ’22
As the Minnesota Lynx claimed a win against the Chicago Sky on Wednesday afternoon, the early morning effort of the behind-the-scenes operations team also resulted in a triumph.
Basketball communications coordinator Laura Topp had been working since 6 a.m. to prepare for the early game, knowing the noon tip-off shifts everything about the schedule earlier in the day.
The earlier time made it harder to prepare, but Topp knew that the younger crowd of kids would amp up their players. Head coach Cheryl Reeve knew the early start would affect both night owls and morning birds alike.
“What ‘s a little bit different from routine, they’ll find their way,” Reeve said. “And they found it as they prepared for the game.
“Something that’s really cool is that our team really feeds off the energy in the arena.”
Topp was not the only person up and running in the early morning hours. Carley Knox, the President of the Lynx Business Operations, had been working the morning rush from making sure the kids arrived at the stadium to preparing a Timberwolves press conference to reviewing reports from the sales and service team.
“I make sure everything runs smoothly upstairs and make sure all the kids get in time for the game and are safe and seated,” Knox said.
Throughout the game, the kids were ecstatic in the stadium. The crowd exceeded the standard attendance levels with roughly eleven thousand people at the Wednesday game. From appearing on the big screen to screaming at the top of their lungs, the kids brought the party with them.
The pre-game efforts were geared towards the light-hearted experience for the kids, but they also paid off in more meaningful ways. Knox believes it’s important that younger generations get to experience the impact of equality in sports.
“We’re helping to raise the next generation of enlightened girls and boys, and those kids are going to go and be our future leaders and really impact change.”
This encouraging attitude was also present in the coach and the Lynx team.
Reeve said, “Understanding that women are equal to men and that this opportunity is the same when playing a professional sport normalizes what you see in your lives at such a young age.”
Though the early gameday start adjusted preparations, the process wasn’t anything the Lynx couldn’t handle. The morning rush, the night owls, the shifted schedules, it all paid off in the end.
The energy in the stadium was outstanding and uplifted everyone that made the experience possible. The hope is to continue impacting the lives of aspiring kids.
Sylvia Fowles: Legend On and Off the Court
In her final season, the future WNBA Hall of Famer has more than her defense to offer
By Paul Malloy, Minnetonka High School ‘24
Franchise players are hard to come by. Lynx president Carley Knox knows that talent when she sees it.
“There will never be another Sylvia Fowles,” Knox said prior to Wednesday’s contest against the Sky. “Sylvia is a once in a generation player — not just the player on the court it’s the person off the court.”
At 36 years old and in her 15th season in the WNBA, the 2017 MVP and eight-time All-Star, Fowles hasn’t lost her touch, but she has decided to call it a career.
“You think about it for a while and the way my body’s been responding I knew it was probably time to start winding down,” Fowles said.
In a season full of lasts, Wednesday saw Fowles play her last game against the Chicago Sky, the team that drafted her second overall out of Louisiana State University back in 2008. On top of that it was also her last time facing longtime competitor and friend Candace Parker, who was drafted by the Los Angeles Sparks one pick before Fowles. From AAU ball, to the Final Four, and even a couple of WNBA finals the pair have had some legendary battles.
“It shows a lot of depth from that ‘08 draft,” said Fowles “It’s all love and I’m always happy to see her do her thing.”
Ranked as the 10th-best WNBA player of all time by ESPN, Fowles has racked up accolades over the years as she’s a two-time WNBA champion with four Olympic gold medals, League MVP, two Finals MVPs, four Defensive Player of the Year awards, three WNBA First Team honors, and the all-time WNBA rebound record. Entering the All Star break, Fowles is only 13 points away from passing Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie for ninth all-time leading scorer.
“I try not to think about it, but also it’s an accomplishment, so those things you work hard for,” said Fowles.
As her final season winds down she has the opportunity to move even further up the scoring list full of some of the WNBA’s greatest players.
The stats show Fowles’ greatness, but her presence in the locker room is just as valuable, teammates indicate.
“I don’t think Syl cares about the accolades or attention or anything, she cares about wins, she cares about us, and she cares about this organization.” said teammate Kayla McBride with great admiration. “She comes to work every day to get better, to be a good teammate, to be better than she was the day before – she’s unbelievable, super thankful to go out there and fight with her every day.”
Fowles’ teammates have nothing but respect for her. The same can be said for head coach Cheryl Reeve, who is grateful to have her presence in the huddle and the locker room: “When you have a player like her who’s battle tested it’s so good to her teammates.”
For Fowles it’s bigger than basketball. Past her playing days, she intends on remaining active in her community. One of her passions is bike riding. Earlier this season the Lynx held an event at Bryn Mawr Elementary School in Minneapolis to kick off their Syl’s Final Ride campaign. Fowles got the opportunity to share her passion for riding bikes with young students. She even gave out bikes to kids thanks to the charity Free Bikes 4 Kidz MN, which she works with frequently.
The Lynx have a couple more events left on the campaign. Surely that won’t be the end for Fowles though as she has some plans of her own.
“My biggest goal is to continue to teach whether that is the youth or the older generation,” Fowles said.
Lynx Inspire Future Players
As the WNBA’s fanbase grows, players are mindful they are role models.
By Sami Lebert, Hope Academy ‘23
The Target Center was filled Wednesday with young people who watched the Minnesota Lynx upset the number one team in the WNBA Chicago Sky.
Not so long ago, Lynx guard Rachel Banham was watching the games and finding inspiration from the players on the court. As a kid, sitting in the chairs, hoping to be able to achieve the same feats that she saw those players accomplish in their time.
Now, she is that someone to look up to in the league. She strives to be a role model and an inspiration for other youths.
“They are seeing dreams that they want to do,” Banham said. “Especially young girls to be able to see us out there and know that it is possible.”
The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) since it first started in 1996 has expanded and continues to see its fan base growing, especially from teens.
Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve said publicity for the WNBA is important, the support from society, the media and even corporate businesses has helped to shine a light on the league and show the world just exactly what they can do. Reeve noted the recent increase in fans, and how important it is to these players and the league. She said throughout the 12 years she’s been coaching the team, she watched how local legend Lindsay Whalen, a now retired basketball player and coach for the University of Minnesota women’s basketball team, was able to draw fans in.
“If you do not win, (fans) are probably going to be less interested, but Lindsay and winning that’s a magical combination for this market,” she said.
The growth in popularity has encouraged the athletes to continue up the line and have a passion for playing professionally. Although the vast majority of the fans are usually older folks, the league’s main target is young girls and teens who are interested in playing basketball, maybe one day at the professional level. The WNBA has a goal, to make the narrative-basketball is for everybody, it is not just a man’s sport.
Many players in the WNBA encourage youth to continue with their goals and dreams, regardless of how difficult it is. They like to push a narrative that regardless of how people feel and what they tell you, your dreams are always attainable, as long as you believe in yourself and not others.
Jessica Shepard, Lynx forward, underlines the importance of having one goal and the importance of always believing and pursuing that goal.
“If you have a backup plan, then you are not putting all of your energy into what you know,” Shephard said.
Star Lynx guard/forward Arieal Powers echoes the importance in pursuing what you love despite what others say. No matter what, it is all up to you to be able to achieve the goal. Do not let yourself regret losing the chance to be able to do something, even if others do not follow.
“You never want to look in the mirror and say, ‘Man I wish I would have done that, but because of what my peers said I did not,” she said.
Izzy Bilyev, a 16-year-old fan in the crowd Wednesday does not play basketball, but the game meant something special. A young woman of color, Bilyev said seeing other BIPOC people, especially women, on the court living their dreams and making history, is inspirational.