By Wheat Hotchkiss | November 21, 2013
Height: 5-8 Position: Guard Age: 28 Years Pro: 6 From: Australia Key Stats: Appeared in 18 regular season games, starting six. Averaged 5.9 points and 1.6 assists in 21.3 minutes. Shot just 36.7 percent from the field, but 47.9 percent from 3-point range.
This wasn’t the year Erin Phillips envisioned. After a stellar 2012 postseason, Phillips entered the Indiana Fever’s 2013 training camp with visions of a career year.
But one broken stride changed the entire trajectory of Phillips’ summer.
Just a week before the season, Phillips tore her right meniscus in practice, unexpectedly forcing the 5-8 guard into rehab and recovery. Instead of spotting up for open jumpers, Phillips spent much of the first half of the season propped up on the trainer’s table.
The loss of Phillips was especially bitter for Fever fans whose last memories of the Aussie in an Indiana uniform were so sweet. Phillips played some of the best ball of her career during the Fever’s run to the 2012 WNBA title.
In 10 playoff games, she scored in double figures seven times and shot a blistering 51.7 percent from beyond the arc. Phillips averaged 13.8 points per game the over final five games – the decisive game of the conference finals and all four WNBA Finals games – culminating in an 18-point, 8-rebound performance in the championship-clinching game.
Coming off that performance, Phillips entered 2013 expecting to comprise a major part of arguably the WNBA’s deepest backcourt, with veteran point guard Briann January, emerging scorer Shavonte Zellous, and returning All-Star Katie Douglas.
But Phillips’ injury caused a sudden change of plans. Douglas hurt her back just two games into the season and without her and Phillips (as well backup center Jessica Davenport and reserve guard Jeanette Pohlen), the Fever stumbled out to a 1-7 start.
PHOTO GALLERY: Erin Phillips Season Gallery »
Phillips missed the season’s first 11 games, but credits athletic trainer Todd Champlin and strength and conditioning coach Emily Novitsky for helping her get back on the court as quickly as possible. She returned to the Fever lineup on July 11 against Minnesota, though she admitted that making her debut in the middle of the WNBA season presented a unique challenge.
“I definitely was playing catch-up all season,” Phillips said.
Though she returned to the court, Phillips continued to face physical hurdles throughout the season. Initially, she had to fight to get her conditioning on par with players who had played six weeks of games. She continued to experience soreness in her knee, leading Indiana to hold her out of road games on Aug. 1 and 24. When she finally started to feel like her old self, Phillips suffered an eye injury against Atlanta that caused her to miss two more games in early September.
“It was a tough kind of injury to rehab,” Phillips reflected. “I had a lot of ups and downs. Usually, my past injuries, I’ve had it and then I’ve just progressed and gotten back on court and kind of haven’t looked back. Whereas this one, I would play some games, miss some games, play some games. So, it was very frustrating and not just physically challenging, but also mentally.”
The 2013 season was a trying time for Erin Phillips, but there were also several bright spots. Like her team as a whole, Phillips persevered through adversity and was once again a key contributor on a team that made a deep playoff run.
Despite her physical challenges, Phillips’ regular season averages were largely consistent with her numbers from 2012. She actually shot better from beyond the arc, improving from 43.8 percent to 47.9 percent. In the playoffs, she averaged 5.5 points in 21.8 minutes in a valuable role coming off the bench. Despite having a solid year, Phillips felt that she never really got back to her comfort level from the end of 2012.
“I think there were some moments,” she said. “But I definitely didn’t feel like I got to the full consistency that I was last season.”
The high point of Phillips’ season came in one three-game stretch in mid-August. With Zellous sidelined with a foot injury, Phillips moved into the starting lineup and produced against three playoff teams. She scored 15 points against Atlanta, 14 against Phoenix, and 16 against Los Angeles. In those three games, Phillips averaged over 30 minutes per game and drained 12 of 17 3-pointers.
Stretches like that one or last season’s postseason performance offer glimpses of Phillips’ potential as a scorer in this league. But the Fever guard also wants to become more of a distributor, both for Indiana and another team close to her heart.
“I’d like to get back to my point guard role,” Phillips said. “I think that’s my role going forward in the future. Especially with the (Australian) national team, come World Championships next year and Rio 2016.”
Phillips is currently playing overseas in Poland with Wisla-Krakow, where she’s averaged 7.0 points and 2.8 assists per game in six Polish League games.
As she continues to improve her game and rediscover her comfort zone on the floor, the 28-year-old Aussie is healthy and prime for one of her best seasons yet in 2014. Just a year later than expected.
FeverBasketball.com is doing Player Reviews for each player on the 2013 Indiana Fever. Check out other stories from this series:
Player Review 2013: Shavonte Zellous Player Review 2013: Erlana Larkins Player Review 2013: Layshia Clarendon Player Review 2013: Karima Christmas Player Review 2013: Jasmine Hassell Player Review 2013: Briann January Player Review 2013: Katie Douglas Player Review 2013: Tamika Catchings Player Review 2013: Jeanette Pohlen