The Indiana Fever are not having the season they had hoped for, but it is becoming apparent that they have a solid young core. No. 2 overall pick Kelsey Mitchell is headed to compete in the Three-Point Shooting Contest during Verizon WNBA All-Star 2018, and over the past month, the Fever’s No. 8 overall pick, Victoria Vivians, has shown that Indiana may have hit on both of their first-round picks from April’s draft.
Vivians, who was a First-Team All-America selection as a senior at Mississippi State last year, brought lethal scoring abilities to the league, especially from behind the arc. But she knew that the change from college to pro was going to be a transition, and has embraced the new surroundings and lifestyle that come with being in the WNBA.
“The transition has been really fast. Coming out of the college season, I immediately was going to the draft, then from there right into the WNBA, so it has been fast but a great learning process,” said Vivians. “I haven’t been too overwhelmed by anything — just overall its been fun and really fast.”
It has taken some time, but it seems as though the sharpshooter has found a groove at the pro level. In 26 games played, Vivians is shooting 39.7% from behind the arc and averaging 8.5 PPG. Her scoring mindset has helped her adjust to the offensive flow with the Fever.
“I just knew I was going to be a threat on offense. I have a scorer’s mentality, and I can score and shoot well,” she said.
Vivians was an elite defender at the college level, being asked to guard the best players on the opposing teams on a game-to-game basis. Now, with the Fever, she is working toward showing that she can be trusted with the same responsibility on the defensive end.
“I knew I was going to have to work on the defensive side of the ball, too, because in order to stay in this league you have to be able to be a threat on both sides of the ball,” Vivians said.
The Fever’s veteran leader, Candice Dupree, has enjoyed what she has seen so far from the rookie, knowing there is still so much to accomplish.
“I think she is just continuing to learn the game at the pro level. We are putting her in better positions to score – teams know that she can shoot the ball now, so we are running more plays for her to get wide-open looks,” Dupree said. “I know we are trying to get her to be one of our top guard defenders, because I know that is what her college coach preached to her on the defensive end. She is doing well and coming along nicely.”
Dupree thinks the sky is the limit for Vivians. With an elite long-range shot already in tow, the next steps for her will be rounding out her offensive game.
“She needs to continue to grow her game offensively. Teams know now that she can shoot, so she is working on her 1-2 dribble pull-up game,” Dupree said. “Learning how to come off ball screens, and learning how to not only be effective from behind the arc, but from all around the floor as well.”
Dupree and Cappie Pondexter, the former All-Stars on the Fever roster, have helped balance out the youth and are paving the way for players like Vivians.
“Candice and Cappie have been great. They are players that are probably getting close to thinking about retirement, so to see them go every single day after playing for so long already is motivation for me,” Vivians said. “Seeing them motivates me to want to teach the youngsters when I am their age how to properly play the game, like Cappie and Candice are [doing] for us now.”
Growing up, Vivians was a student of both the NBA and WNBA. She was always watching basketball, and in doing so began modeling her game after some of the league’s greats. One of her idols was Candace Parker, who had a big influence on how she plays the game.
“Growing up, it was always Candace Parker. Everybody from where I grew up looked up to Candace Parker and wanted to make it like she did, and I was another one that looked up to her. She went to an SEC school, and so did I, and I felt like I wanted to make it just like her,” Vivians said. “Now being in the WNBA and being around her, it is kind of a weird feeling. I played against her the other day, and it was so surreal.”
Dupree has played with and against many of the league’s all-time greats in her career, and sees parts of Vivians’ game reminding her of some of those players.
“Her shooting ability reminds me of Diana Taurasi. She is not at DT’s level just yet, but as far as shooting from behind the arc, Diana. Maya Moore is another that comes to mind – Victoria can really shoot the ball,” Dupree said.
The Indiana Fever are in a rebuilding phase as they continue to groom their young core and build for the future. Between Mitchell’s electric game and Vivians’ upside, they’re off to a good start.