Rachel Banham realized her dream of playing for the Minnesota Lynx when she was acquired via trade last year after spending her first three years in the league with the Connecticut Sun. This summer, the Lakeville native and University of Minnesota alum began her second season in Minnesota living out that dream. But Banham was waived on June 28, with both sides hoping to reunite if or when she cleared waivers.
“I knew the plan, I knew the situation, we communicated everything, I trusted the process, I trusted Cheryl (Reeve), that part wasn’t hard. It was just feeling like I wasn’t on the team anymore,” Banham said. “Even though I knew it was going to be okay, it just felt weird. I don’t like that feeling. I knew I always wanted to be on this team and be able to play basketball. That part was hard.”
The Lynx had to make a move to clear cap space in order to make room for Layshia Clarendon to be signed for the rest of the season. Waiving Banham was the fallout, giving the other 11 WNBA teams the opportunity to sign the sharpshooting guard. Thankfully for Banham, she cleared waivers and re-signed with the Lynx in a move made official on Monday. Although she was technically off the team for just a few days, Banham said that week was a long and stressful one.
“It was tough the first couple of days, I’m not going to lie,” Banham said. “I felt pretty anxious about the situation, but I stayed in close contact with the team and the coaches. I went home for a couple days, up north and got on the lake a little bit and had a nice little reset. Then I came back to the cities, got my mind right, and got back in the gym because I knew I would get back here soon. I stayed up on my cardio so I would be ready.”
Banham missed Minnesota’s two-game road trip to Phoenix from June 30 to July 3, adding “it was really weird, it felt gross” watching her team play without her.
“Those first couple of days were rough. I was super anxious and it was a super weird feeling, I didn’t like it,” she said. “Right after practice on Monday, I went straight home to my parents’ house. Just let me get out of the cities. I deleted my social media and I just needed a reset. I had to get away, get my mind right and understand the circumstances and understand that things are going to get better out of this.
“It’s not the end of the world. I had to get away and just relax because it was hard those first couple of days. Once it hit 4:00 pm (and I cleared waivers), we were all excited. Let me tell you, those 48 hours were tough.”
Dealing With The Business Side Of Sports
Outside of the personal and emotional attachment Banham has with the Lynx, dealing with the business side of the game was another difficult aspect that took some getting used to before re-signing with Minnesota.
“I understand the situation, we all understand the situation, but it was still really hard. Unless you’re in it, you don’t really know,” Banham said. “This is a team I’ve always wanted to play for and a team I’ve always wanted to be with and be around and represent. It felt weird, it felt wrong and I was really sad. I was also staying positive knowing I would hopefully get back as long as everything went as planned.
“It’s hard, it still wears on you and still makes you sad. It wasn’t easy. I have the right people in my corner working on my side, so that helped me get through. It was only a week, but it felt like forever.”
One thing that made the process easier for the guard was the reassurance from Reeve and the organization of the desire to re-sign her once she cleared waivers while constantly communicating throughout the entire process. Banham said she remained in contact with Lynx players and coaches while they were on the road.
“It was not an easy conversation by any stretch. … This is not what we set out to do when we started off the season,” Reeve said. “We talked to Rachel about that and it didn’t feel very good, but it is one of the better outcomes we could have had in terms of she only missed two games. … We appreciate Rachel’s understanding and our team handled it great. We held the fort down for Rachel and we knew when we got back, she would be here for us. Rachel’s a pro and we get right back to it. It was necessary and we move on.”
The last week or so was a rollercoaster experience for Banham, one she hopes she doesn’t have to deal with again anytime soon. But it all worked out in the end and she is now once again back on her home team, a team she has dreamt of taking the floor for since a young age.
“I knew the plan, I knew the situation, we communicated everything, I trusted the process, I trusted Cheryl, that part wasn’t hard. It was just feeling like I wasn’t on the team anymore,” Banham said. “Even though I knew it was going to be OK, it just felt weird. I don’t like that feeling. I knew I always wanted to be on this team and to be able to play basketball.”