Just a month ago, Aari McDonald and Trinity Baptiste were experiencing the NCAA national championship game. Saturday, they both spoke about their early experiences in the WNBA.
McDonald got her first taste of playing against real opposition as the Atlanta Dream and Minnesota Lynx scrimmaged in Atlanta on Saturday afternoon. The two teams played a regular first half, which Atlanta won 42-36. In the second half, they played alternating possessions. The final score was 69-61 in the Dream’s favor, meaning they took the second half 27-25.
For the most part, both head coach Nikki Collen and McDonald were pleased with her performance. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things to work on.
“I thought Aari put pressure on,” Collen said. “I think she guarded really hard. I think she was disruptive in transition. I mean, she sometimes is going to get in and she’s got to learn that she’s small and she can’t throw over players in this league. I think that’s the Welcome to the WNBA. It’s hard to throw over Sylvia Fowles. You got to play under.”
McDonald agreed that size was one of her biggest challenges as she gets used to the league.
“I have to play pretty low,” she said. “I have to make sure I have the bounce pass. So, just crisp passes. Everyone is pretty tall and very active on defense.”
McDonald ended the day with seven points on 3-for-8 shooting including 1-for-2 from 3. She added three assists, three steals and a rebound, but also had three turnovers.
McDonald will get her next chance when the Dream travel to D.C. to play the Washington Mystics in a preseason game on May 5 at 4 p.m. MST.
Meanwhile, Baptiste is trying to grab a roster spot with the Indiana Fever. Like McDonald, there are things she already brings to the table, but things she will also have to adjust to in order to stick in the WNBA.
“I’ve been watching Trinity for a bit,” Indiana head coach Marianne Stanley said. “Back when she was at Virginia Tech, she caught my attention. so, when she moved on to Arizona, I kind of just tracked her. I think she’s one of those people that’s very versatile. I think ultimately she’s going to be a player that needs to be a three, like the big three, and clearly there’s some things in her game she needs to develop in that regard, but great attitude, great energy, good on both ends of the floor. She’s not a one-way player. She’s a two-way player. I like that about her. I just think she has the versatility and the mindset to play at this level.”
Baptiste thinks her defense has been a ticket to her current position, and hopes it helps her grab a roster spot.
“I think that’s one of the key reasons why I’m here honestly,” she said. “Stepping up my defense my last year at Arizona and being able to translate that to the next level is a big thing for me, especially being an undersized post and I take a lot of pride in my defense. So I just want to make sure that I’m staying locked in and focused on the defensive end, and I’m bringing that to every practice and every chance that I get to compete in training camp.”
The Fever have two preseason games against the Chicago Sky. The first is scheduled for May 9 at 10 a.m. MST in Indianapolis. Two days later, the Fever will travel to Chicago to play their second preseason game at 1:30 p.m. MST.
Both the Dream and the Fever start the regular season on Friday, May 14. Fans who want to follow them during the WNBA season can get all of their games via WNBA League Pass, which offers packages to follow all 12 teams or just one team all season. Some games will also be aired on the ESPN/ABC family of networks.