MINNESOTA (WNBA/FIBA World Championship for Women) - Every team with championship aspirations should have a player like Lindsay Whalen in the squad.
At 30 years of age, the 1.75m point guard is at the pinnacle of her career, with gold-medal wins at the 2010 FIBA World Championship for Women in the Czech Republic and at this summer's London Games.
Now with Minnesota, the team she helped capture a WNBA title for the first time last year, Whalen is averaging 11.4 points, 5.4 assists and 4.1 rebounds.
More important than the numbers is the timing of the plays she makes.
In Minnesota's latest win over the Indiana Fever, Whalen hit a fade-away jumper off the glass with 1.6 seconds left to clinch a 66-64 victory.
"She's obviously one of the top point guards in this league, she's so strong," Fever forward Katie Douglas said.
"She wasn't going to be denied and she hit a tough shot."
Whalen sure rose to the occasion for the Americans this summer.
In the third quarter of their Semi-Final against Australia, the Americans looked vulnerable.
The Opals led by a point in the third quarter and USA superstar Diana Taurasi just left the floor with her fourth foul when Whalen entered the contest.
She calmly drilled a jumper in the paint to put the USA in front and then drew a foul and added two free-throws on the team's next trip down the floor.
Whalen capped her 6-0 run with a 15-footer on the baseline for a 61-56 United States advantage.
It was a momentum-changing spurt all courtesy of Whalen.
The scoring spree energized the Americans and sucked the life out of the Australians.
The USA went on to prevail in that game, and then romped to victory over France in the battle for gold.
Right now, Whalen is playing with the Lynx again and it's not hard to envision her cutting down the nets with a successful title defense.
Whalen will have to wait a while before she dons the USA shirt again.
If she continues to make the big plays, and win titles, it's hard to imagine the United States going to Istanbul for the 2014 FIBA World Championship without her.
photo Getty Images
photo Getty images