When any team graduates a player of Rachel Banham’s level, the question becomes who is going to step into that role.
This season, Carlie Wagner answered the call.
The junior has taken over as team captain in a season where the roster is full of young players in need of guidance.
Wagner first realized she was captain during one of the first practices.
“The girls were asking me all these questions,” Wagner said. “They were coming to me, and I was like ‘whoa, that’s not usual’. Usually, it’s Rachel [Banham] or Shayne [Mullaney] or [Mikayla Bailey] that they’re going to, so it was weird to me being the girl that they were asking the questions to.”
Challenges come naturally for anyone entering a new position, but Wagner said her biggest challenge is finding a consistent voice.
“It’s definitely something I want to improve on with my leadership skills is just always being that voice on the court.”
Head coach Marlene Stollings said that having that voice isn’t natural for Wagner, but it is something that she continues to learn.
Teammate Jasmine Brunson emphasized the importance of not just Wagner’s voice but her ability to let others do the talking when needed.
“She just listens to everybody’s opinions,” Brunson said. “She doesn’t think she’s above anybody because she gets all this hype, and she gets all this recognition. She’s very easy to talk to.”
Brunson, along with three other rookies, were named February captains for the team.
They’re now lending Wagner some of the same advice she told them earlier as Wagner’s senior season winds down.
“Just to play [her] game, and have fun,” Brunson said. “Sometimes she tends to overthink, and I’m just like ‘You had what, 38 points in a game this season? Why are you overthinking? Shoot the ball.’”
The contribution from the underclassmen has impressed Wagner. She said they came in with a foundation many freshmen don’t have but has also enjoyed passing on what she knows to them.
Stollings said Wagner’s transition to her leadership role is easier since seniors who were key players have graduated, and that Wagner was a very supportive teammate, which doesn’t always happen at this level.
“She was a great teammate to the great players of Rachel [Banham] and Amanda [Zahui B],” Stollings said of Wagner’s now professional teammates. “They had their time, and then she knew that this was going to be her time.”
Wagner said she’s spoken to Banham at times during the season for guidance and leadership advice and said it’s good to have someone around who has been through the same situations.Wag
Minnesota will play Penn State in its first game of the Big Ten Tournament this weekend.
Stollings said Wagner is looking forward to leading this team on a stage where much of the roster hasn’t been before.
“She’s so excited. She’s sitting on the edge of her seat the whole time because she knows what the tournament is about,” Stollings said. “She wants to get with the newcomers on our team … before we head out to Indianapolis and really talk to them about what the tournament feel is like.”