January's Continued Growth Spurs Fever's Success

By Greg Rappaport | July 29, 2014

After six years and a WNBA championship with the Indiana Fever, Briann January is finally beginning to understand what head coach Lin Dunn expects from the point guard position: everything.

“She’s tough on her point guards,” January explained. “You’re just supposed to be an extension of [Dunn] out on the court, and be the catalyst on both ends.”

While January has always been an integral part of the team — averaging over 20 minutes per game in all of her six seasons — 2014 has been standout year for the Arizona State alumna thus far.

She is averaging a career-high 10.5 points per game and sinking 37.8 percent of her 3-point attempts. Her strong numbers and leadership in the absence of Tamika Catchings, who sat out the first 17 games with a sore back, culminated in January’s first All-Star selection.

“I’m excited about Briann’s first ever All-Star opportunity,” Dunn said. “She deserved it. She’s earned it.”

When January was first drafted by Indiana back in 2009, she heard tales about how challenging it was to be a point guard in Dunn’s system. When asked to name some of the attributes Dunn demands from the position, January laughed, as if to imply constructing a “Dunn-point-guard list of duties” would take longer than a transcontinental flight.

But she gave it a shot.

“It’s knowing when to attack, it’s putting pressure on the defense, it’s getting people in positions to be successful, it’s recognizing time and score, it’s making sure everybody is in the same offense, it’s making sure everybody understands what offense we’re running and why we’re running it. And it’s making sure everybody knows our defensive schemes, it’s stopping ball, it’s putting pressure on the ball. We could go down the line,” said January with a laugh, as she tried to catch her breath.

This grocery list of items seems nearly impossible to grasp for the average brain, but January’s mind is trained for such endeavors. Her father, Barry January, is a karate instructor. So from an early age, while growing up in Spokane, Wash., January was syncing her body and mind, unknowingly preparing herself for the rigors of playing for Dunn.

January, who is likely the only person in the world to possess both a WNBA Championship and a black belt in karate, credits the lessons learned on the training mats to her success on the hardwood.

“I think being in martial arts has allowed me to kind of just take a minute, and refocus and be able to recenter myself,” January said. “Calming yourself, and being able to really allow yourself to think and breathe.”

While January is still growing as a player, she knows she won’t always be able to lace up and take the floor, which is why she is already working her way towards being a coach at the collegiate level. This past offseason, January was an assistant coach for the Adelphi University women’s basketball team in New York.

“Going through my college experience, I had phenomenal coaches, and I know that’s a huge reason I’m here today,” January explained. “I think that’s one reason I really want to get involved in college basketball.”

For now, Dunn views January as an extension of herself on the court. But perhaps in a couple of years, she will truly follow in Dunn's footsteps by walking the sidelines as a coach.

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