Tale of Two Point Guards
Then there's the scenario in Indiana with Fever guards Tully Bevilaqua and Briann January. Bevilaqua has spent the last decade in the WNBA. Meanwhile, January is a fresh-faced rookie looking to make a name for herself.
The thing is: There is no bitter rivalry between the two, only a friendship that makes their 14-year age difference seem obsolete. They live in the same housing complex, listen to similar music (everything from country to dance) and plan on having a barbecue in the near future. They are truly friends despite the Fever grooming January to take over at the point, Bevilaqua's spot for the last four seasons in Indiana.
"The thing with Bri is, for one, she's a great person," Bevilaqua said. "She's got a lot of talent and she's definitely the future of this club."
"She's been an amazing mentor this entire time," January said. "She's been super, super supportive of me."
Bevilaqua came into the WNBA as a free agent with the Cleveland Rockers in 1998. She became a full-time starter with the Portland Fire the next season before moving on to Seattle in 2003. There, she won a WNBA Championship, but wasn't getting nearly enough minutes with Sue Bird and Betty Lennox ahead of her on the depth chart. So she moved on to Indiana in 2005 and started every game she played in (129) over the next four years.
The Aussie native claims to have never had a mentor early in her career. But with the hundreds of different players she's gone up against and the thousands of in-game situations she's seen, Bevilaqua is willing to dish off what she knows to the 22-year-old January.
"It's not like bombarding her every day with something new," Bevilaqua said. "It's just, when there's something at this particular moment she can do differently or think about, then that's when I like to have a chat in her ear."
"I can't tell you how much she's helped me. She's helped me on offense and defense. She's in my ear consistently and I love it," January said.
January was a track and basketball star at Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane, Wash. She choose Arizona State University to further her basketball career and left leading the Sun Devils in assists and steals all four years. January was also awarded with the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year award her junior and senior seasons.
The Fever, coming off a first-round playoff loss to the Detroit Shock, were looking for their point guard of the future this off-season. The draft was stocked with them, but January was the one Fever head coach Lin Dunn really had her eyes on. Dunn preaches defense and January was one of the best defensive players in the pool. Indiana wasted no time snatching her with the sixth-overall pick.
"It's easy to work with someone who's willing to learn, willing to listen to what you've got to say," Bevilaqua, who would like to become a coach in the WNBA when she retires, said. "Once she learns the rigors of the WNBA, she's going to have a long future in this game and hopefully a long future with the Fever because in my eyes she's definitely the future point guard."
"I couldn't imagine coming to a better team," January said. "All these girls worry about is winning."
Being the future face of the franchise and talking nice about her teammates can only get January so far. But it doesn't exclude her from any innocent rookie hazing, including from Bevilaqua.
"She's never called me January. I pretty much have gotten every other month of the year other than January," she said. "It's just good fun."
January began the season as the Fever's starting point guard, but a string of mediocre games put the ball back in the hands of Bevilaqua, who's handled it in the eight games since. During this time, Bevilaqua is averaging eight points, two assists and two steals per game. January, meanwhile, is dropping five points, three assists and one steal a night.
"Regardless of if she's starting or if I'm starting, it doesn't matter, every time we're out on the court we're giving 110 percent and getting the job done," said January.
The two are getting the job done, as the Fever are leading the Eastern Conference with an 8-2 record and a league-best eight wins in a row.
"I'm super excited with the chemistry of our team and the work ethic of our players," January said. "I'm so excited to see how far we can make it and make a run towards the championship."
Spoken from a true leader-in-training.