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ARLINGTON, Texas — Bridget Carleton is in her fourth season with the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx and it’s safe to say the former Iowa State women’s basketball standout has settled in nicely in the Twin Cities.
“It’s been good,” Carleton said of her Lynx tenure. “I’ve really enjoyed my time. I’ve grown a lot as a player and as a professional just knowing how the professional world works. It’s a really good franchise that I’m lucky to be a part of.”
After a standout career at ISU capped by a senior campaign where she averaged 21.7 points and 8.6 rebounds over 35 games, earning the 2019 Big 12 Player of the Year and the Cheryl Miller Award given annually to the top small forward in the nation, she was drafted in the second round of the 2019 WNBA Draft by the Connecticut Sun.
However, after playing four games for the Sun as a rookie, she was waived. Carleton quickly landed a seven-day contract with the Lynx and performed so well she earned a contract for the remainder of the season. Last season, she appeared in a career-high 32 games, averaging 4.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game.
Cheryl Reeve has been coaching the Lynx since 2010. During her tenure, she has guided Minnesota to four WNBA championships and is a three-time coach of the year. Reeve has appreciated the various intangibles Carleton has brought to the Lynx the past few seasons.
“There’s something to be said for being somebody that just plays hard and is consistent in their behavior from a basketball standpoint. That’s been invaluable to us,” Reeve said. “When you have a player that can be as consistent as Bridget, consistent in terms of her effort, she gives us the same every single day, anything we give her to do skill-wise to evolve, she’s done it every single year with us.”
But consistency is nothing new for Carleton, who was known for always answering the bell during her impressive four-year stay in Ames.
“I take pride in that, controlling what I can,” she said. “If coach asks me to do something, I’m going to do it.”
“The little things in this league matter because every team is good, every team can beat every team, so it comes down to possessions and possessions come down to the little details. I try to take care of business that way and let the chips fall where they may. I’m not too worried about shots or anything (else) but taking care of the ball and playing defense.”
Besides playing for one of the most successful coaches in WNBA history in Reeve, Carleton also has benefited from playing alongside Sylvia Fowles, a league icon who in 2021 was named one of the 25 best players in WNBA history. Fowles is retiring after this season.
“It’s been so great. Sylvia’s the best. Obviously, she dominates on the court offensively and defensively,” Carleton said. “She’s always a safety net on both ends of the floor. We know as guards we can press up a little more because we have her behind us ready to protect the rim.
“On offense, she’s just a beast down there and can score at will. Not only that, but she’s a great person. She’s really amazing to be around, a great leader. She’s just the best. I love hanging out with her and getting to know her the past four summers.”
Playing in the Twin Cities also has been nice because Ames is only a few hours away, allowing her to return to ISU to see her former coaches and others within the program whenever possible.
“Ames was good to me. Iowa State was good to me. I always try to get back whenever I can,” Carleton said. “Some of my coaches came up and watched our last home game, which was really nice. Yeah, I love Ames. I’m proud to be a Cyclone, excited to see what they’re doing down there.”
The WNBA season runs through mid-August. Once this campaign concludes, Carleton’s thoughts will shift to her next competition with Team Canada, the 2022 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in Australia. It’s an assignment she will share with current Lynx teammate Natalie Achonwa, who Carleton also was teammates with at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo last summer.
“It’s awesome. I love playing for my national team,” she said. “I’ve said it a million times, it’s always been my No. 1 goal and dream, to represent Team Canada at the highest level. That’s the Olympics, the World Cup. We (Natalie and I) have grown a lot together. It’s really fun to represent Canada, the country I’m happy to be from.”
And once the World Cup concludes, her focus will shift to again playing overseas during the fall and winter. Thus far, this ex-Cyclone has played in Australia, France and Israel.
But no matter where she’s playing, getting paid to lace up her sneakers is not a bad way to earn a living.
“Absolutely (I have the best job in the world),” Carleton said. “I’m away from my family a lot and we don’t get weekends off, but I get to play basketball for two or three hours a day. That’s my job and that’s pretty cool.”
Stephen Hunt is a freelance writer based in Frisco, Texas.