Arizona State’s Briann January fuels Fever’s fighting spirit

Photo Credit: Tony Capobianco 

When the Indiana Fever drafted Briann January out of Arizona State University back in 2009, They were hoping that what was coming into Indianapolis was a highly athletic scoring point guard with the fighter’s mentality of a black belt karate master. Seven years in, she fuels the fighting spirit of the Fever that has led to three WNBA Finals appearances and a championship in 2012.

“We kind of feed off each other’s energy,” Fever forward Shenise Johnson said. “She’s like a little pit bull out there. I love having her as a teammate, but I wouldn’t want to play against her.”

Anywhere else, she might have been made into a shooting guard because of her ability to stack up high point totals. However, with WNBA icon Tamika Catchings already established as the Indiana’s chief scorer, even on her farewell tour, she is perfectly positioned to perform at her best as a point guard.

“I love being a point guard,” January said. “And I love our style and I love our team. And I feel that’s a place where I can really help our team, at the point guard position.”

“There are no two people that I want to go to battle with,” Fever head coach Stephanie White said on January and Tamika Catchings.

January is currently averaging 9.6 points per game and 4.6 assist per game for the Fever, supported by a bevy of scorers that continue to pose a major threat to the rest of the Eastern Conference.

“We have so many weapons everywhere,” January said. “As a point guard, that’s a dream come true. You just have to give them the ball and let them work. At the same time, I can make their job a lot easier if I have an attack mentality.”

The Fever are currently in third place of the Eastern Conference standings despite a 10-12 record. They are used to breaking out of slow starts and peaking in the playoffs.

“Our team is really special,” January said, “and we’re going to continue to try and get better every day and focus on those details.”

Win one more for Catchings?

Throughout her career, Tamika Catchings is everything you could ever want from a professional athlete. A long-standing icon for the Indiana Fever that defines their success since existence, an MVP in 2011, a five time defensive player of the Year Award winner, a WNBA record 10-time All-Star, a force of dominance with three consecutive Olympic gold medals (2004-12), an WNBA championship and Finals MVP Award to boot.

Yet among all the glistening hardware in her trophy case, winning the first-ever ESPN Sports Humanitarian of the Year Award on the eve of the self-important 2015 ESPYs “is definitely the biggest”.

“When they told me I won it,” Catchings said, “I was like ‘are you serious? Don’t play with me now!’ It’s so exciting and especially for the foundation with all the success that we’ve had and continue to have with the money that we’ll get [from the award].”

For winning the inaugural award, Catchings received a $75,000 grant to advance her Catch the Stars Foundation charity devoted to promoting youth fitness, literacy and mentoring in Indianapolis and other parts of the Hoosier State. That is the most her foundation has ever received in a singular donation.

Through her foundation, Catchings teaches Indiana youth about embracing their differences, building their self-esteem and overcoming obstacles that affect every day life. In this country’s sports landscape, there aren’t many better examples than her. Before becoming a sporting legend and international ambassador, Catchings was a young girl with a hearing disability.

“I’m really excited because my ultimate goal is to provide full scholarships down the road,” Catchings said. “[With the grant money], we’re on our way. We’re pushing.”

It seems like an ever-increasing likelihood of a New York-Los Angeles WNBA Finals with both teams on top of their respective conferences by a substantial margin but the Fever have crashed the party before last year and can do it again.

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About: Tony Capobianco

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Sports Kave senior writer

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