Blossoming Briann January Gets Well-Deserved Recognition

By Wheat Hotchkiss | June 2, 2014

Briann January has been a mainstay in the Fever lineup for several seasons now. But this year, Indiana's sixth-year point guard has taken her game to an unprecedented level.

January gained some well-deserved recognition for her fantastic start to the 2014 season on Monday afternoon, when the WNBA named her the Eastern Conference Player of the Week.

January led the way in a pair of Fever victories last week, scoring 20 points in Thursday's win over Connecticut then posting what head coach Lin Dunn called "an All-Star stat line" in Saturday's victory against New York: 20 points, 4-for-4 shooting from 3-point range, seven assists, and four steals.

RELATED: Briann January Photo Gallery

Going beyond last week, January's current statistical averages for the season are simply superb. Through six games, she leads Indiana in scoring (15.8 points per game) and assists (5.2 per contest). In five previous WNBA seasons, January never averaged more than 10.3 points per game in 2012. She's already scored 20 points in three of six games this year, after only accomplishing the feat four times in 136 career games prior to this season.

A career 37 percent shooter, January has been much more efficient so far this season, connecting on over 46 percent of her shots. January has had a particularly hot hand from beyond the arc, hitting an astounding 15-of-21 attempts from 3-point range (71.4 percent). She didn't miss on any of her seven long-range shots last week.

With Katie Douglas' departure in the offseason, January became the second-longest tenured player on the Fever roster. Only Tamika Catchings has spent more time in a Fever uniform. And with Catchings yet to play this season due to a back injury, January has noticeably stepped her game up, though she has insisted on several occasions that there has been no pressure from Dunn or anyone else for her to take on more of scoring load or leadership role.

"As a point guard, I feel like I'm out there trying to lead the team," January said after Thursday's win. "I don't feel like I've had any pressure with (Catchings) out."

Together with Erlana Larkins, who leads the WNBA in rebounding as of Monday afternoon, the Fever have boasted one of the best inside-outside duos in the WNBA. "(January) is shooting the ball really well...I certainly hope she and (Erlana) Larkins are getting some recognition maybe that they haven't gotten in the past," Dunn said after Saturday's win.

While she had a solid season last year, January admittedly was somewhat disappointed in her 2013 campaign. Her numbers dipped slightly from the year before and she was hampered by injuries at a couple different points in the season.

In the offseason, January elected to take some time away from the court instead of heading immediately overseas. A rested January went to Brazil after New Year's, playing in 18 games for Maranhao in Brazil. Dunn joked in preseason that January's time in Brazil was almost like a vacation. In truth, she did work hard in her time in South America (she averaged 33.3 minutes per game), but there's no doubt that January entered training camp energized and healthy.

One underrated plot in January's development this season is the addition of Sydney Carter. The Fever signed Carter in the middle of the preseason and she quickly gained the trust of Dunn, who particularly likes her high motor and her ability to defend. Dunn has played Carter and January together in the backcourt in stretches, a move that allows January to slide over to shooting guard and get some different looks by cutting to the basket and running off screens.

"I'm just trying to be available and (my teammates) are finding me, so I can knock down open shots for them," January said Saturday.

Despite her hot shooting, don't expect January to start shooting more unless her looks come in the natural flow of the offense:

"We have plenty of scorers on this team," January insisted. "There's no need for me to shoot any extra or any more or press for shots. We're going to work to get the best shot for our team."

At 27 years old, January should be just now be entering her prime. If she can continue to play near this level when Catchings returns, the Fever figure to be a force to be reckoned with this postseason.

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