Coleman Hungers for Big Year

By Tom Rietmann | April 28, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS -- When the telephone call came from Fever Coach Lin Dunn this past off-season, Marissa Coleman picked up and immediately liked what she heard.

Dunn explained to Coleman, a five-year WNBA veteran who was a free agent, what the Fever team believed she could provide if she signed with Indiana. The Fever needed scoring and ball-handling from the wing position. It needed spread-the-floor accuracy on 3-pointers. It sought a tough-minded player who could rebound but also run the floor.

The longer that phone call went, and the more Dunn talked in her deep southern drawl, the more Coleman realized she was destined to live in the 317 Area Code during the 2014 season.

“I think it was an easy decision after talking to Coach Dunn and learning how they really wanted me,” said Coleman. “It's human nature. When somebody wants you, it makes you feel good and it was welcoming for me.”

Now, with the Fever a few days into the franchise's 15th training camp, Coleman resides in an apartment a few blocks from Bankers Life Fieldhouse, is able to walk to practice and loves her new position in the WNBA. Call it a basketball rebirth for the 27-year-old player.

“I think so,” she said. “The expectations that (Dunn) and the staff have for me, it's been awhile since I've had such high expectations. Knowing what I'm capable of doing as a player, it's exciting to come in and know I'll be able to contribute and play a lot and get back to playing the game how I'm used to playing.”

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Coleman averaged 3.1 and then 4.6 points the past two seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks. It wasn't what she wanted after her first three WNBA seasons in Washington resulted in an upward trend of 6.1, 6.5 and then a career-high 8.6 points per game. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 draft hungered for more.

“Definitely,” Coleman emphasized. “The past couple of years have kind of been a struggle for me personally, just being in situations where I felt like I wasn't able to fully give what I'm capable of.

“I'm not blaming anybody. People just tend to get put in these boxes and (are) only able to do one thing. … Being here, with (the coaches) letting me know that I'll be able to go out and do all the things I'm capable of, it makes me feel good and more eager to get out there.”

The 6-foot-1 guard looms as an important acquisition for Indiana, the 2012 WNBA champion, as it attempts to reach the playoffs for a 10th consecutive season. The team must replace the consistent double-digit scoring of guard Katie Douglas, who signed as a free agent with Connecticut, and the physical play and timely shooting of guard Erin Phillips, who was traded to Phoenix.

Coleman appears to have the right stuff to flourish in many facets of the game. She was a 40 percent shooter from the WNBA 3-point arc in 2010 and 2013. At the University of Maryland, where she helped the Terrapins to the 2006 national championship, she became the first Atlantic Coast Conference player to collect 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 400 assists, 200 steals and 100 blocks.

Dunn, when asked this week how Coleman has fit in thus far, responded: “Exactly like we wanted her to. She can be a big wing, who can play the two (shooting guard) or the three (small forward). She's big, strong and physical. She can knock down the 3-pointer.

“What we're working on is her ability not only to hit the 3 but also her ability to get to the rim. We don't want to limit her. We don't want her just to be a spot-up player. We want her to be a multi-dimensional player.”

To that end, Coleman spent about two weeks back at Maryland before reporting to the Fever camp. She worked with Terrapins assistant coach David Atkins two to three hours a day. Ball-handling, 3-pointers and shooting on the move were all part of the daily regimen.

Coleman's goal is simple: making this the best year of her professional career.

“I'm big on everything happening for a reason,” she said. “I just have a great feeling coming into this season, coming into this situation. I definitely think it could be a breakout season for me.”