Tamika Catchings gives high marks to Indiana Fever point guard Briann January: “She has really stepped up this season” -- and that was far from a sure thing a year ago. The fourth year pro had suffered a season-ending ACL tear ten games into the 2011 campaign, leaving Indiana very thin at the point guard spot and January's future in doubt.
Things are much better this season for the 5-foot-8 guard from Spokane WA. Since the Olympic break, January is averaging 10.6 points and 4.5 assists and is shooting a career-best 43 percent from behind the arc.
“Bri has done a great job coming back from last year, and from a leadership stand point she is one of the best,” says Catchings, the 2011 MVP. “She’s done a fabulous job of distributing the ball, getting to the basket and just stepping up when we need scoring.”
In the last 10 games, January has posted a handful of career bests including 22 points against Phoenix on Aug. 25 and eight assists against the Liberty on Aug. 30. Fever coach Lin Dunn says the Arizona State grad is also delivering career-best performances on defense. “She may be the best defensive point guard in the league," says Dunn. "I’m not sure who is better. She’s going to guard Cappy, she’s going to guard Angel and Seimone. She’s always going to get the chance to guard everybody’s best player, so that’s been a huge plus for us that we didn’t have last year.”
Dunn also believes January is going to become one of the best point guards in the league because she is willing to put in the time. “The great thing about her is her work ethic and her attention to detail and her love of the game. She wants to be the best, she wants to be a tremendous defender, she wants to be all of these positive things and she has the work ethic to do it.”
Full Court publisher Kelly Kline recently caught up with Briann to find out more about her season on an off the court.
(Photo by Andrew Snook)
Kelly Kline: How excited are you about this team clinching a playoff spot, and overall just how well this team is playing right now?
Briann January: My excitement is off the charts, I was just talking to Catch (Tamika Catchings) about how everyone’s game is elevating at the right time -- we’re playing well together, we’re clicking and things are falling into place and that’s exciting heading into the playoffs. Sitting back watching last year killed me but now to actually be a part of it - it’s super exciting.
KK: What’s the one thing this team has to do to make it deep into the playoffs and possibly the finals?
BJ: It’s what’s been our Achilles' heel all season, and it’s rebounding. If we continue to dedicate ourselves to offensive and defensive rebounding I think that will give us a push because we have the skill, we have the people who can put the ball in the hole, and we have people who can play defense. We just need to finish with rebounding.
KK: As you mentioned, you had to sit out the second half of last season after suffering an ACL tear. What did you learn through that process?
BJ: (laughs) We’d be here all night if I told you everything I learned. I had the ability to sit there and see things that you don’t get to see when you are involved in the game. I would go to sit down with the coaches a lot and talk about strategy and break down film and do all those little things and it really helped me as a player for sure.
KK: Let’s rewind for a second and talk about the Sports Illustrated cover you did when you were in college with James Harden. (Check out the SI cover HERE)
BJ: Oh man, I haven’t thought about that for a minute. It was a ton of fun, James is a total goofball and we were there just having fun and joking around. I was really nervous being on set in front of the camera but he made it really easy. It’s great to see how successful he’s been and now we’re both in the pros and doing really well.
KK: Your WNBA bio says you’re a black belt in karate.
BJ: My dad is an instructor, so I basically started kicking and punching when I could walk. It’s just part of my family. My mom is a second-degree black belt, my sister has her black belt, I have mine, so it’s something that we did as a family. It’s a lot of fun and my dad attributes EVERYthing I can do in basketball to my karate training – OF course (laughs). But it really did help me learn how to take a hit, how to protect my body, tucking and rolling when I fall on the ground, mentally preparing for games. I love it and whenever I get the chance, I get back in the gym and train.
KK: What other hobbies do you have off the court, what’s your scene when you’re not playing ball?
BJ: I like to stay active; I’ve tried to start getting into cooking. Jessica Davenport has been my guinea pig. I make her come over and try everything then I’m staring at her like “Do you like it?" So that’s fun. When I tore my ACL, I bought a road bike and really got into riding. I love doing that, just being out there and riding. Basically I’m really chill, I like to going to movies, I don’t really do the club scene, I’m just laid back.
KK: What’s your favorite movie of all time, and the best movie you’ve seen lately?
BJ: Oh man, that’s a tough one. My favorite movie, it’s a little out there, but I’ve always loved it, is Pulp Fiction. That’s definitely one of my favorites and I could watch it a million times, I think I could recite every word of it to you. The last movie I went to see was Hunger Games and that was pretty decent, so now I’m about to start reading the books.
KK: What kind of music do you like?
BJ: I LOVE music. Jess calls me the human jukebox, I know the words to everything. I love music more than movies or TV. I listen to everything from Prince to Two Chains to Lauren Hill to Lady Antebellum.
KK: What was the last concert you went to and what's the best performance you’ve ever seen?
BJ: I just went to see Miranda Lambert (laughs) -- honestly I listen to everything. I went to The Roots concert and absolutely loved it, it was totally my scene. I love them and I love their music -- they are definitely my favorite.
KK: Was there a player you loved and wanted to be like when you were growing up?
BJ: I’m embarrassed to say this, but I didn’t watch much basketball when I was a kid, but being from Seattle, I loved Gary Payton. The Sonics were my team. But as I grew up and started following basketball more it became Tamika. She’s the type of player I wanted to be like, I wanted to give 110 percent every time. I wanted to be out there playing hard and just getting the job done and I love the passion that she plays with. It was a dream come true to come to Indiana and play with her.
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