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Our Local Lynx

May 06, 2018 09:20 PM

(ABC 6 News)-  In April, during the 2018 WNBA draft, the Minnesota Lynx had the final pick in the third round.  Last but not least, that pick went to one special New Richland native and former Golden Gopher, Carlie Wagner.

“There were definitely hardships, and sacrifice, meaning you're going to be busy, you're going to be giving up summertime on the lake with your friends, shopping, whatever you like to do,” Wagner said.  “I just remember there was a lot of family trips, time with my friends, they (would) all go do these fun trips and be on the lake all day and I was in the gym."

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Carlie was working towards one thing, and that was basketball.

“(I played) a lot of games on that basketball court in my driveway, tears coming in crying saying ‘I quit I don’t’ want to play,” Wagner said.

However, nothing was going to stop Wagner.

“My third-grade basketball coach John Schultz, he was like my second dad growing up, from a very young age he started pushing me,” Wagner said.

“What’s amazing was some kids you don’t see results until later in the season, and with her, you saw it the next day,” Carlie’s High School basketball Coach John Schultz said.

“All my kids were athletic and they were all kind of good at stuff so it wasn’t that big of a deal but I’d go to these little tournaments and it’d be like ‘wow’,” Carlie’s mom, Jane Wagner said.

“It’s when the AAU coaches start coming to our house after, that’s when we thought ‘ok there is something going on here’,” Carlie’s dad, Darren Wagner said.

Carlie’s talents began to shine during her high school career at NRHEG (New Richland, Hartland, Ellendale, Geneva).  Carlie scored over 3,900 points, finishing second all-time in the state, winning two state championship titles, and being named Minnesota’s Miss. Basketball her senior year.

Schultz coached Carlie for nine years, and he recalls one specific moment at the high school state tournament when Carlie’s basketball career took a turn.

“Her tenth-grade year playing Braham in the first round, (state quarterfinals) they were returning state champs heavily favored to win the whole thing, we blew them out by 30, she scored like 45 points,” Schultz said.  “I remember the press guys coming up and there like you know this is going to trigger something really big, we went down to the locker room after that game and when we stepped out and opened the door there was about 40 people cameras taking pictures, and Carlie goes I’m not ready for this.”

Well, ready or not three years later, Carlie put away her Panthers jersey and became a Golden Gopher.  However, playing for a division one college came as no surprise. 

“When the mailbox starts filling up (with college letters) you know somethings going on,” Mr. Wagner said. 

“Every day the mailbox was just so full,” Mrs. Wagner said.  “I apologized to my mail lady (because) there would be like thirty of them (letters) in there and she’d have to like hoist it up into our mailbox.”

Carlie averaged over 17 points per game at the University of Minnesota and was at the top of Minnesota’s all-time career scoring list.

“Every time I walked onto the court nothing else mattered,” Wagner said.

Although, one thing did matter.

“I don’t know why I’ve done this but I have to put everything on from left to right, so I’ll put my left socks on first, then my right, then my left ankle brace, and I have to wear my hair in a bun,” Wagner said.  “I’ve tried wearing it in a pony-tail before and if I wasn’t playing well, it goes right back up in a bun.”

That hairstyle worked in Carlie’s favor.  During the 2018 WNBA draft (April 2018), Carlie was selected as the final pick in the third round by the Minnesota Lynx.

“I remember my mom hugged me and I could see a tear and I was laughing and crying at the same time, it all hit me at once it was so much emotion I was honestly that moment in time the happiest person on the planet,” Wagner said.  “To see my name next to the Lynx was honestly just all the feelings of hard work running double down and backs in the gym and lifting hard through the summers and everything was paying off.  Everyone kind of doubted small-town girls.  Growing up people were like ‘yea, you’ll never make it, you’re from New Richland, it’s a two-a school’.”

Wagner, she didn’t care what others had to say, what she knew then still holds true today.

“Put in the time when nobody’s watching, (it) is the biggest thing,” Wagner said.  “I know some people are like ‘oh I’m going to go to practice and I’m going to call it good, you have to get in before practice, get your shots up, stay after practice, get your shots up, go in the gym when nobody else is in gym,” Wagner added.  “It’s going to take some sacrifice.”

Carlie and the Lynx open up the preseason on Sunday, May 6 in Des Moines, Iowa against the Washington Mystics.  Tip-off is set for 2:30 p.m.  The Lynx will open up the regular season at home on Sunday, May 20 against the Los Angeles Sparks for a championship rematch.  Tip-off is set for 4:00 p.m. at Target Center.

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Diana Cannizzaro

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