Rachel Banham is confident, comfortable entering fourth season with Lynx

Rachel Banham was informed of a “no stepback three” message from Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve this week.

“I know. We’ll have to meet about that,” Banham said with a smile. “She said I had the green light, so, honestly, if I make it, we’re good. You’ve just got to make the shot.”

Banham did admit her first shot of the season would not be a stepback jumper.

“Maybe like my third or fourth,” she said. “Once I’ve got my feel, ya know?”

That exchange showed Banham’s current comfort level — with both her relationship with the Lynx’s basketball boss and with the state of her game.

The 29-year-old’s seventh WNBA season last summer was her best to date, as the Lakeville North High School and University of Minnesota alum averaged eight points and two assists per game while shooting 38 percent from 3-point range. Above all else, Banham liked the confidence level she brought on a daily basis.

“I thought that I came out every game playing confident and at good pace and just being myself again and having fun with it,” she said. “I just felt at home, I felt right, I felt like myself, I felt good. I don’t want to lose that. I want to continue to build off that and keep doing that, be the player that I am. I know I can get buckets and bring the energy for my team and find people — I’m a good passer, too, just to throw that in there. I want to continue to build off that confidence and never let that waver.”

There is no reason for Banham to lack confidence in a situation with which she’s so familiar. This is the guard’s fourth season with the Lynx, making her an elder stateswoman on a team in transition.

Gone is now-retired center Sylvia Fowles, who was the unquestioned leader of the franchise. That role is now occupied by a few players, including Banham. Banham said she and star player Napheesa Collier are now the de facto go betweens for Reeve and the rest of the Lynx roster.

“Just being those communicators. I love doing that. I’m a talker — you guys know this,” Banham said. “Every year I just want to level up on my leadership. That’s something I talked about with Cheryl. I am one of the leaders on this team, and I need to take it to that next step.”

Never before has Banham had a better perspective as to how to lead and what a coaching staff expects. She spent the past eight months serving as the director of quality control on the Gophers’ women’s basketball staff.

Banham said she has learned how to communicate with different personalities and people. That, she said, translates to the pro level.

“It’s been fun. I’m really enjoying it. I’m just trying to use all of my tools that I’ve learned in the offseason and that I have into this year,’ Banham said. “I feel like I’m a lot more of a leader this year than I’ve ever been — directing, making sure we’re on our Ps and Qs, I just see it differently and I know, like, what a coach wants, so I’m trying to make sure we’re doing those things.”

Banham has always been cognizant of those types of things as a floor general. But her knowledge is now at an entirely different level.

“So I feel like that’s taken my game to another level,” she said, “just understanding what we need and what Cheryl wants.”

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