May 12, 2024 

Cheryl Reeve wants Bridget Carleton ‘hunting threes’ this season for Minnesota Lynx

Minnesota's most tenured sharpshooter looks to continue momentum from overseas success

MINNEAPOLIS — Bridget Carleton is no stranger to the overseas grind during the WNBA offseason. The Iowa State graduate by way of Chatham, Ontario, Canada, has spent her last five winters playing in five different countries. 

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The consistency of playing overseas has helped Carleton carve out an important role as a 3-point threat off the bench with the Minnesota Lynx. It’s a role that should see continued importance in 2024: Head coach and president of basketball operations Cheryl Reeve wants to see her team finish among the best in the WNBA in 3-point shooting this season. 

“Overseas always helps me with continuing to play,” Carleton told reporters after practice on Saturday. “I don’t think I’m the type of player who can sit for seven months and not play basketball. Overseas always helps build that confidence coming into the season.”

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Through two preseason games, Carleton has taken seven shots from beyond the arc and hit five of them. It’s a small sample size, but it’s emblematic of when she exploded in 2020 to shoot 45.7% from deep. It’s also a continuation of her overseas season for Uni Gyor in Hungary, where she shot just below 41%. 

“BC’s been good,” Reeve told reporters after Minnesota’s 83-77 preseason victory against the Washington Mystics on Wednesday. “I think any time you get players that have momentum overseas, generally speaking, when they come back, they stay in that place. I loved the season that she had for Uni Gyor. I love her confidence. She’s looked great. I don’t want to jinx it, so let’s not write about it or talk about it. Let’s keep it right where it is. [Laughter]

“But no, I mean, it’s what we asked for. She went through free agency and we shared expectations, and thus far, she’s meeting them.” 

Reeve also mentioned Carleton during the team’s media day as a player she wants “hunting threes” in 2024 in hopes that the team finishes in the top four in the WNBA in 3-point attempts.

“The preseason games were fun,” said Carleton, who has been with the Lynx since 2019. “When I’m on the floor with the second group, I know it’s my turn to step into that role to be more of a scorer and to play-make a little more. Obviously, shooting threes is what I like to do and is what I’m best at, so just not passing down opportunities like that.

“I had a really good season overseas and taking those shots, being able to get my shot off. I know it’s quick enough, I know it’s high enough to get over a contested hand. Just being shot-ready every time I catch the ball, having that mentality to hunt shots knowing I have the green light.”

Bridget Carleton smiles as she watches her team from the bench in a preseason game. She has a white Gatorade towel draped over her lap.
Minnesota Lynx forward Bridget Carleton enjoys a breather during a preseason victory over the Chicago Sky at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minn., on May 3, 2024. (Photo credit: John McClellan | The Next)

Carleton averaged 14.7 points per game in Hungarian League outings for Gyor and 17.0 points per game in the club’s eight EuroLeague contests. Empowered to hunt for her shot, Carleton took four or more 3-pointers in all but two of her Hungarian games this season. In each of those two outliers, she shot 2-for-2 from three. 

“This season was pretty unique,” Carleton told The Next from Hungary on April 15. “Last year was my first year in EuroLeague, and this year I think I established myself as a good player in Europe. Coming to this club was really awesome for me because I was required to do a lot of things: be a playmaker, score the basketball, rebound, and come off ball screens, post up if I need to — things that will really help develop my game going forward. So it was a really great fit, me coming here.”

That fit required a little bit of serendipitous timing. Carleton’s Lynx teammate Diamond Miller played in all of two games for Gyor before injuring her meniscus. That forced Gyor to find a replacement in the early days of the season. 

“They needed another player at the same position,” Carleton said. “Diamond and I work with the same agency, so they asked me, and it just kind of all fell into place.”

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Carleton hopped on a plane two months after the Lynx’s season ended, began work with a brand-new team in another brand-new country, and helped Gyor to a second-place finish and a regular-season record of 14-4. 

“It worked out that I got some time off and then this opportunity came up,” Carleton said. “I knew some of the players on the team. I knew I would be relied upon heavily to score and be a playmaker. I thought it would be a good fit, and it’s worked out.” 

Uni Gyor ultimately fell to DVTK 3-0 in the Hungarian League Finals without Carleton, who had returned to Lynx training camp after the semifinals to adhere to the WNBA’s prioritization rule.

Ups and downs and ebbs and flows are part of the life of a 3-point shooter, but Carleton found encouraging consistency during her first season in Hungary. In 25 games, she made multiple threes in 19 of them. Her most notable performance came in a 41-point outburst in a EuroLeague victory against Polish squad Polkowice, when she connected on eight of 10 3-point attempts. 

“It’s so interesting playing overseas,” Carleton said. “You’re thrown into a new country and a new team. There wasn’t a lot of English. As a North American going over there, you’re expected to be a go-to player and to make plays and help your team win games. Going in with that mindset, I was ready to take that role on and my team was really encouraging and had confidence in me to play that way. I was able to be comfortable in that role, and hopefully I can bring that into this season.”

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If Carleton’s Hungarian heat from deep continues in the WNBA regular season, it could go a long way in getting the Lynx into the top third of the league’s 3-point shooting. 

“Cheryl believes in me. She’s told me never to pass on an open shot multiple times. So I know that’s my role every time I’m on the court and I’ll continue that,” Carleton said.

She laughed as she added, “And you can write about it.”

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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