Home crowd, home proud

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen is counting on the fans' support to help bring another title to Minnesota.

I’m what outsiders might call a “townie.” I’m a proud Minnesotan, born and bred, and wouldn’t have it any other way. I grew up in Hutchinson, Minn., a town of 13,000 people about an hour and a half outside Minneapolis.

I was always athletic growing up, but my first love was not basketball -- it was hockey, which is a norm in the North Star State. I started playing in kindergarten but slowly started realizing there wasn’t a future for females in the sport at that time. I played through fifth grade -- and like to think I can still work my way around an ice rink -- but that was when I started playing basketball.

By the time I got to high school in 1997, the WNBA was just starting up. I had thought for a while that I would grow up to be an athletic trainer or maybe a physical therapist ... something that would keep sports a part of my life. But the WNBA changed that for me. I saw that women could be professional athletes, too, and I had a whole new vision for my future.

At Hutchinson High School, I played basketball, tennis and track -- and was all-conference in all three (Go Hutch Tigers!) --and went on to accept a basketball scholarship at the one and only University of Minnesota.

The life of this Minnesotan continued just 65 short miles away from home. With a lot of hard work and some long nights in the gym (and library), my teammates and I gained the respect of the Golden Gophers population, and then the country. Making Minnesota proud, our team made it to the NCAA Final Four my senior year. Playing in front of thousands of people in Williams Arena and around the country in college was unbelievable. I didn’t think it would get better, although it was pretty cool to have my own bobblehead doll and to have my jersey retired in front of my hometown and home crowd.

Six years later, in 2010, I was acquired by the Minnesota Lynx. It was time to come back home. My family is here, my husband -- also a Golden Gophers alum -- is here and I certainly missed the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Being back home and playing in front of my home crowd again is like nothing else. I am confident in saying that we have the best fans in the country. They come out and really rev us up on the court. We came out in 2011 and brought home the highest league honor, a WNBA championship. But as any Minnesotan would say, one championship is never enough, and we want another one. I have been working hard in the gym with my teammates to bring another one back for Minnesota, but we’re going to need your help, too. Help us pack the house and show that same pride I’ve felt the past 30 years (note: I am 30) for this state.

My name is Lindsay Marie Whalen. I am a University of Minnesota graduate, a guard for the Minnesota Lynx, a WNBA champion, an Olympic gold medalist, and a Minnesotan through and through.

Hope to see you at the Finals!