Q&A with Lynx Guard Alexis Hornbuckle

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While the Vikings limp into Kansas City tomorrow with an 0-3 record and their season head nowhere, the Lynx open the best-of-five WNBA Finals vs. Atlanta at Target Center favorites to win their first ever WNBA title.

Alexis Hornbuckle is often lost in the shuffle because of her more famous teammates, but 4th year guard has a pretty impressive resume of her own. The 4th overall pick out of Tennessee by Detroit in 2008, the rookie was a vital part of the Shock’s run to a WNBA title, averaging 22 minutes per game off the bench. She followed that up a strong sophomore season, establishing career highs in points (6.7), assists 2.7 and rebounds (4.9).

In 2010, Hornbuckle moved with the Shock franchise to Tulsa and saw her once championship team quickly dismantled. In August of that season, she was shipped to Minnesota for Rashanda McCants and reunited with Cheryl Reeve, a former assistant in Detroit. While her playing time has been drastically reduced with the Lynx (she averaged just 7 minutes per game in 2011), Hornbuckle provides steady, efficient play at point guard when needed.

The soon-to-be 26-year-old and I chatted after Thursday’s practice at Target Center.

DZ: You guys are just a couple of days away from the WNBA Finals, how are feeling right now?

HORNBUCKLE: It’s good to be back here, back in this position. And as a whole, I think we are just excited. We feel it is right here in our reach and we worked so hard to get to this point. So we are actually looking forward to day one and getting off this practice court and getting up there to the main court.

DZ: You went to the Finals as a rookie with Detroit and you guys won it. How has that experience helped you going through the playoffs this time?

HORNBUCKLE: Just being able to talk to the players as far as (telling them) “Don’t get too excited, overconfident.” The game is never over until you see them drop their heads and they have that look of defeat and the buzzer goes off. Then you know it’s time to put a smile on your face. This series is 200 minutes instead of 120, so we have to stay focused for two more games, if necessary. That’s kind of helped me - being there before - to kind of bring a calm and, at the same time, bring that energy and excitement.

DZ: The 2008 Detroit team you were on and this team; how are they alike and how are they different?

HORNBUCKLE: They are two totally different teams in my opinion. (There are) some similarities, we like to get up and down the court and run, push the ball. We are a defensive minded team, defensive rebounding - Detroit was set on that. But, other than that, they are two different teams, two different coaches. She (Cheryl Reeve) was under Bill Laimbeer, but as a head coach, she is her own person. She makes different decisions.

DZ: You knew Cheryl before you came over here, did that factor in the trade?

HORNBUCKLE: It did kind of play a little part in that, just knowing that I’d be able to go into a system where I kind of knew the coach, I kind of knew what she was about. Getting there and seeing some the plays were similar to what we ran in Detroit - just a few tweaks, a few added extras - that definitely helped as far as learning. Coming in for the last 14 games, it’s kinda hard to learn a whole new playbook in that short amount of time. That did help.

DZ: Seeing all the struggles Tulsa’s going through, how are glad are you to be in Minnesota right now?

HORNBUCKLE: (laughs) Obviously, I am glad to be in this position because we are competing for a WNBA championship. Tulsa was a great place, it just had its downs - they haven’t had too many ups basketball wise. They definitely have a lot of room to grow under the new head coach (Teresa Edwards). She’ll do well, she’ll do very well. I think once she gets her own team, they’ll be alright, but I’m definitely happy to be in Minneapolis.

DZ: This team is really deep and really talented. You’ve got a lot of players on the bench who have had to make some personal sacrifices as far as minutes, playing time and all that. What has that been like?

HORNBUCKLE: It’s been a learning and growing experience. Anytime you have a player that’s used to getting x amount of minutes and that’s decreased, at first it’s a struggle because you are not used to being in that position. But basketball, luckily, is a team sport so you just kind of feed off your team and you still want to give that energy and you still want to be positive. So I just took that role on the team.

DZ: I noticed your mother sang the national anthem before the first playoff game, how did that come about?

HORNBUCKLE: She sang earlier (in the year) in the pink game against Phoenix, that was her first time singing in Minnesota. My mother actually sings everywhere I go. Since I was in middle school, she was singing the national anthems at my games. When they ask her if she has a tape to send in for auditions, she says “YouTube it, Google it.” I guess she did so well, our owner actually asked her to come back. Mr. Glen Taylor was like “We’d love to have your mother back” and luckily she had off days at work and she was able to come help kick off our playoff series.

DZ: I noticed you have something written on you (left) shoe. Is that a Bible passage?

HORNBUCKLE: Yeah, Proverbs 24:10, “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” So, basically it’s a reminder to stand tall no matter what you are going through. It’s easy to smile and be happy when things are going good, but what are you going to do when your back is against the wall. It’s just a reminder to stay strong.

DZ: One last thing, the season will be over soon - hopefully with a championship - what are your plans, where are you going overseas?

HORNBUCKLE: I am going to be going to Turkey after our season - in Istanbul. We work year around, so there is really no such thing as a break.

See more of David Zingler’s interviews with Lynx players:

September 15: Charde Houston
September 7: Jessica Adair
August 26: Seimone Augustus
July 29: Monica Wright
July 12: Taj McWilliams-Franklin

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