Catching Up with Indiana's Briann January

Posted Mar 14 2011 11:02AM By Frank Della Femina, The final shot of the Indiana Feverís 2010 season was in Briann Januaryís hands. After New Yorkís Kia Vaughn hit one of two free throws to put the Liberty ahead 77-74, January rushed down the court for the quick shot and launched a running three-point attempt that could have tied the game with just under four seconds remaining. Unfortunately for the Fever, the shot bounced off the front of the rim, causing players to scramble for the loose ball as time expired, sending the Fever home in a 2-1 series loss and crushing Indiana's hopes of a return trip to the WNBA Finals.

Now entering her third season in the league, January could potentially be the go-to point guard for the Fever in 2011, an opportunity she knows will only come with continued hard work. She recently checked in with while playing overseas in Israel for Raanana Hertzeliya. First off, letís catch up on the offseason. How are things going in Israel?

Briann January: Iíve had a blast this season. Iím over here with Jene [Morris], so itís nice to have an Indy teammate out here. And Shavonte [Zellous] is out here. Our teamís improved since we got out here, because we both came midway through the season, so weíre in the playoffs right now, the first round, and weíre about to enter Game Five of our series. We have a good shot at making it to the second round. Weíll see. Last year you played in Turkey. How did that differentiate from Israel?

January: Itís a ton different. Had I been in Istanbul I think it would have been a little similar, but I wasnít. I was in Tarsus, which is a very rural city. Like, if you blinked youíd miss it if you were driving down the street. But Israelís very Americanized. Everything I need is out here. You donít have to change your eating habits. Itís very easy because everyone speaks English, so that makes communication a lot easier. Out here Israel is a lot easier just to live [in], and in Turkey you had to worry with the language barrier and some of the food. (laughs) You mentioned playing alongside your teammate Jene. Sheís a player who didnít receive a lot of minutes last year in her rookie year but had a tremendous opportunity to learn and soak it all in. Now she has a chance to get familiar with the speed of the game with some more time on the court. How would you rate her progress?

January: For rookies, overseas play is huge. You get to take all the knowledge you learned during the WNBA season. You get so much thrown at you so quick in a short amount of time, so itís hard to incorporate it into your game. Now is the time to get it out there. You get the playing time, you get the court time and you get to improve on the things you learned during the summer. But sheís looking great right now. Sheís out there, confident and just playing well. Making great reads. Iím having a blast playing with her and itís always nice being on the court with somebody who knows what theyíre doing. She is understanding the game a lot more than she was in her rookie season when she was just a little flustered sometimes. Tully Bevilaqua is a player who helped guide you into the league when you joined the Fever in 2009. Would you say youíre taking on a similar teaching role with Jene now?

January: If I could only help Jene as much as Tully helped me. She was one of the best mentors I could have asked for coming into the league. She was patient with me. She knew the process and the learning process coming into the league. And she was always in my ear. Always positive. Of course thatís what Iím trying to do for Jene. She comes to me for questions and I try to answer them. We have a good friendship and weíre pretty close, so Iím there for her. With Tully recently signing in San Antonio, do you think thereís a possibility for you to slide into the starting point-guard role?

January: That would be a great opportunity. I got a little taste of that last season before I got hurt and then the lineups changed a bit. It would be great. Thatís something you dream of. Iíve always dreamed about being a starting point guard in the WNBA, and of course no position is given and I know I need to come in, step up and earn that position. It takes a lot because youíre on the court with a lot of veterans and you need to know what youíre doing out there. Iím excited that I actually have the opportunity to fill that role for our team. In adding Tangela Smith to the lineup, Indiana has acquired yet another prolific player on an already strong team. Are you anxious to get things going in June?

January: I try not to get too excited about it because Iím trying to focus on this season out here, but man I canít wait to get out on the court. We just have so many weapons right now. Iím excited to play with Tangela, just to run and get up and down the court. The people we have on our team will definitely be able to get out in transition. We have scorers from all over the place, which is nice for a point guard because you can just dish it out. Tamika Catchings finished second overall in MVP votes last season, which is to say the same place she finished in 2009. Is this the year she claims the title of league MVP?

January: I hope so. If I could vote I would put a million votes on her. Itís unbelievable and I wish people knew. You see the hard work. You see that every game that she comes out sheís always rebounding, always playing defense, sheís always positive and always scoring Ė she leaves it all out on the court and does everything for our team. Sheís by far our most valuable player. She does everything for us. Sheís the glue that keeps us together. She has that competitive drive that just motivates everybody. I really hope this is the year for her and I hope people see that she is an amazing person on and off the court. I would say she deserves the MVP just for all the work she puts in. Iím going to try and do whatever I can to get her that MVP, because she definitely deserves it. She is one of my role models and mentors and she is an amazing woman. When looking back on last season, many could have predicted a return trip to the Finals with perhaps even a different outcome. But that was unfortunately not the case, as New York won the best-of-three series in the first round of the playoffs. Was there added pressure for the team in trying to make a repeat run to the Finals?

January: Itís always hard to follow up a great season like we did in my rookie year. I guess last year definitely gave us a little wake-up call and it definitely dropped us off the radar, I guess you could say. But I know everyone on the team learned from last year. Weíll be even more hungry coming into this season. And even talking to Jay-Dav [Jessica Davenport] and J-Moore [Jessica Moore] and Shavonte and Jene, everybody is more hungry this year because we got knocked out in the first round and we know thatís not acceptable at all. Weíre ready to go out and prove that we have the talent to make it back to the Finals and bring a championship to Indy.