April 24, 2024 

What a reunion with Cecilia Zandalasini could mean for the 2024 Minnesota Lynx

Italian sharpshooter Zandalasini could be a major puzzle piece for the Lynx

It’s been a busy offseason for Minnesota Lynx head coach and president of basketball operations Cheryl Reeve. A flurry of signings, trades and picks since the start of free agency has seen the team acquire several potential key pieces. A commonality across many of the moves the franchise has made? An emphasis on three-point shooting, which was inconsistent at times on last season’s Lynx team.

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In 2023, only the Dallas Wings converted threes at a lower rate (31.7%) than the Lynx (32.5%). Guard Rachel Banham — who opted to return to the Connecticut Sun in free agency — was the only Lynx player last season to shoot north of the 40% mark from three-point range (40.2%). Adding players like Natisha Hiedeman, Courtney Williams and first-round draft pick Alissa Pili should provide plenty to help Minnesota rise its three-point tide.   

Perhaps overlooked in the Lynx roster movement, however, is Italian forward Cecilia Zandalasini. Zandalasini, who played with Minnesota the last time the team won a WNBA championship (2017), is a versatile player who adds additional three-point prowess and experience to the Lynx.

As a 21-year-old in the 2017 WNBA Finals, Zandalasini clocked just over two minutes of game time and didn’t attempt a shot. A native of Broni, Italy, Zandalasini signed with the team in August of that year and made her W debut in the third-to-last game of the regular season. Her role expanded the following season as she made six starts across 29 appearances and finished second on the team in three-point percentage (38.3%), helping the Lynx reach the 2018 WNBA Playoffs.  

From June into July of that 2018 season, Zandalasini converted at least one three-point attempt in 11 consecutive games. Minnesota went 8-3 during that stretch and also went 12-4 on the season in games where Zandalasini converted at least one shot from beyond the arc.  

Since her 2018 season in Minnesota, Zandalasini has competed for the Italian senior national team. She led the team in scoring with 15 points per game across four contests at Women’s Eurobasket 2023 in June of last year, including a 33-point outburst (on 5-of-7 shooting from deep) against host nation Israel

She has spent three seasons each with Fenerbahçe in Turkey, and Italian club Virtus Bologna — who finished the regular season in third place of Italy Serie A1 with a record of 20-4.

On Wednesday, Zandalasini’s Virtus Bologna squad fell to Ragusa by a score of 77-75 in the first leg of their quarterfinal Italy Serie A1 playoff matchup. The second leg will take place on April 28, the same day WNBA training camp begins. Since Zandalasini has fewer than three seasons of WNBA experience, she is not subject to the league’s prioritization rule and thus could return at any point during the preseason. 

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As soon as Zandalasini arrives in Minneapolis she’ll be another strong contender for a roster spot as a high-voltage offensive threat who can explode at any minute. The Lynx lacked such combustible threats in 2023. Zandalasini has a chance to be a significant factor as Minnesota looks to build off of last year’s first-round playoff exit. 

Written by Terry Horstman

Terry Horstman is a Minneapolis-based writer and covers the Minnesota Lynx beat for The Next. He previously wrote about the Minnesota Timberwolves for A Wolf Among Wolves, and his other basketball writing has been published by Flagrant Magazine, HeadFake Hoops, Taco Bell Quarterly, and others. He's the creative nonfiction editor for the sports-themed literary magazine, the Under Review.

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