A big block, followed by a scream, a flex, and a wave to pump up the crowd.
That was a regular sequence that characterized the ‘Mad Kiki’ persona embodied by Mikiah Herbert Harrigan during her college career at the University of South Carolina.
“‘Mad Kiki’ came from games, just my competitive spirit,” Herbert Harrigan recalled. “Someone scores on me, I get upset. That channels my inner ‘Mad Kiki,’ I guess.”
Herbert Harrigan became just the third Gamecock Women’s Basketball player to accrue 1,000 points and 200 blocks in her college career, joining A’ja Wilson and Alaina Coates. Her prowess on the defensive end, mixed with a little ‘Mad Kiki,’ helped South Carolina to the 2017 NCAA title and three SEC championships in four years. Herbert Harrigan’s consistent success at the college level piqued the interest of Minnesota Lynx Head Coach and General Manager Cheryl Reeve with the No. 6 pick of the 2020 WNBA draft.
“What you do in college, most times, translates [into the WNBA] in a couple key areas: if you turn the ball over as a basketball player in college, you’re going to turn it over as a pro,” Reeve explained during Lynx Training Camp. “If you foul, you’re gonna foul. It’s not necessarily true if you shoot a certain percentage, you’re going to the same thing [as a pro]. But if you block shots and if you rebound, that’s translatable skill.”
To take that skill to the next level, Reeve is counting on Assistant Coaches Plenette Pierson and Rebekkah Brunson, both of whom earned multiple WNBA championship rings thanks in-part to their post defense, to bring the best out of Herbert Harrigan ahead of her rookie season.
“Since the time that Kiki stepped off the plane, we have double-teamed her with Plenette and Rebekkah Brunson,” said Reeve. “She’s been a sponge. I think she’s having a good time being coached by those two. Being challenged by them as a group, I think she likes her team a lot.”
“Knowing that they’ve been in my position before; they know a lot of stuff,” Herbert Harrigan said of Pierson and Brunson. “They’re really smart. They know a lot about the game, so I’m just trying to soak in as much as I can.”
Adapting to the speed and nuances of the WNBA game is one thing, but Reeve is also hoping Pierson and Brunson can introduce ‘Mad Kiki’ to the pro game.
“Kiki has blocked more shots in Training Camp than she’s done anything else,” Reeve said. “Kiki is fun to coach because she responds well to getting riled up and getting challenged, and Plenette has done that really well in talking to her. She needs that.
“She needs a motivation; she needs someone to kinda poke her a little bit.”
With elite athleticism, Herbert Harrigan already has the tools to help the Lynx right away. If she can adapt the skills that made her a great college defender to the WNBA, Lynx fans can count on meeting ‘Mad Kiki’ during the 2020 season in Bradenton, Fla.
“I told her: ‘What’s better for our team is Mad Kiki, not Mad Cheryl,’ Reeve joked.
“We’re trying to get her in that place.”