Tamika Whitmore, Indiana Fever

Throughout the season, we will look at some of the WNBA's emerging talent and the candidates for the WNBA Most Improved Player Award. Previous winners include Sacramento's Nicole Powell, Houston's Michelle Snow and Coco and Kelly Miller. It could be more playing time, offseason development or even a new team that results in marked improvement.

Tamika and Tamika - Whitmore and Catchings - form a strong duo in the Indiana frontcourt.
Ron Hoskins/NBAE/Getty Images
Fast forward to the young 2006 season, and the Indiana Fever are off to another strong start despite bringing back only four players from last season's Eastern Conference runner-up. Yet one of the key offseason moves that has had the most impact so far is the signing of free agent forward Tamika Whitmore. Whitmore had previously played with the Los Angeles Sparks and New York Liberty.

And how has Whitmore responded? By putting career-highs in points, rebounds and assists per game. Her 14.9 points per game put her just behind franchise leader and All-Star Tamika Catchings. Her presence also makes it harder for defenses to double-team Catchings. All of a sudden, Indiana is no longer a one-woman show. She scored 26 points and 6 rebounds in a loss to Minnesota without Catchings in the lineup back on June 2 and 22 points in a win over the Liberty on May 30.

Whitmore is not exactly a newly-discovered talent. After graduating from Memphis State back in 1999, she had best season back in 2002 with the Liberty averaging 12.7 points per game and 4.4 rebounds per game. But then she averaged slightly more than 7 points per game in her two seasons in Los Angeles. But she has re-emerged as a steady, reliable talent in Brian Winters' system who can even hit the occasional 3-pointer when needed.

The Fever are currently 6-3 and all alone in second place in the East. If Whitmore and the Fever are able to produce at their current paces, the Fever will find themselves back in the playoffs and Whitmore will be a strong contender for the Most Improved Player Award in 2006.