After training ended last week, Lynx coaches ran Nikolina Milic in a special workout. She was asked to guard a pole, to be denied entry, and then to defend the player once the ball was in her hands.
One rule of thumb: Milic was not allowed to touch the person she was defending. Absolutely. No arm bar, no hand, no leaning on the body, nothing.
“It’s all about the position,” said Cheryl Reeve, a Linux trainer. Then she pointed to Rebecca Bronson, now an assistant at Lynx, who, as a player, was one of the best defenders Reeve ever coached. “Bronson has rarely touched her player. With this exercise, we are redoubling our efforts to keep going [Milic] of an ugly problem. ”
This is all part of the process of learning to play basketball the way it is played in the United States, particularly in the WNBA.
Milic said, “This is something I never expected. When I came here, I thought it would be more physical, and vice versa. Actually here, they don’t allow contact, which I was not used to. I love contact. I am a physical player.”
Milic is another 6-3, 28-year-old who is a WNBA rookie. She was born to Serbian parents in a relatively small town in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Fighting workout and eating meticulously, tall, slim and strong. She has enjoyed a long and successful career in Europe, including playing for the Serbian team at the 2019 FIBA European Women’s Basketball Association Championship, where Serbia won the bronze medal – and where she vaulted onto the Lynx radar.
The two sides talked for some time about Milic coming to Minnesota. But then the epidemic happened. Last year Reeve didn’t feel like he had a place on the list. But this year, when Lynx rocked by last-minute changes and injuries, Milic got her chance. She first came to Lynx under an alternative contract. After that, she signed a series of seven-day contracts. Most recently, she was signed for the rest of the season.
It is now part of Reeve’s plan for the future.
This season, she has seen her role change several times. She appeared in 28 matches. It was everything from the start (four times) to the fifth job in a rotation of five jobs depending on the correctness of the Lynx slate.
“She’s very aggressive,” Reeve said. “She’s very competitive, which is a lot of value. You’ll fight at both ends. And that’s contagious. When you’re on the ground, you know you get a competitor. And you’re probably our top scorer in the low position after Sylvia.” [Fowles]. “
Offensively, Milic’s game translated well. She has good footwork and a variety of swivels and hooks that allow her to shoot her against the biggest competitors. Milic averages 6.0 points and 3.0 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per game, shooting 58.8% from two-point shots.
On a basis of 36 minutes per game, she’s racked up nearly 18 points and nine rebounds – and 5.5. errors.
Learning how to defend without contamination is key. It’s something I’m working on,” Milic said.
The whole season was a learning experience for Milic, who is in the country for the first time. She had to learn a new style of game, get to know her teammates. Coming from a smaller town, the big town isn’t her favourite. And when she came in early May, she was surprised — and unprepared — for the unusually cold Minnesota spring. But Milic said she has come to love Minneapolis and its lakes.
Professionally, it’s time to try out the WNBA.
“I’ve had a long career, I had a lot of experience playing in Europe, Playing in the EuroleagueMilic said. “It’s high-level basketball. But that was something that was missing in my career. And I thought, ‘Why don’t you give it a chance?'”
Milic has definitely shown that she belongs at this level. And as it adapts to its defensive game, its role is likely to grow.
“I know what I can do,” she said. “I’ve played with many players in this league. [in Europe]. I never doubted what I could do. ”