Training camp begins today, April 29, when Pokey Chatman will begin leading the Indiana Fever into the 2018 WNBA season. A 10 a.m. practice officially begins Chatman’s second season and, along with her newly acquired general manager duties, she welcomes a mildly reconstructed roster that expects to be younger, bigger and more athletic than that which took the floor during a 9-25 season in 2017.
The Fever open camp with an 18-player roster that includes 11 returning veterans from last year’s club. Seven newcomers, including three top draft picks and a valuable trade acquisition, will vie for spots on the 12-player regular season roster. If you’re doing your math, that means that several jobs may be on the line if those four top highly acclaimed arrivals are to make the final squad.
Who are they? Here is an alphabetical rundown of Indiana’s 18 training camp participants.
#11 • NATALIE ACHONWA • C
Height: 6-3 / Years Pro: 4 / College: Notre Dame ’14
Achonwa is a returning center who started 17 games and appeared in all 34 last season for the Fever. A former draft pick out of Notre Dame, she has recovered nicely from a torn ACL that claimed her would-be 2014 rookie season. She emerged last season to average 7.1 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. A native of suburban Toronto and a member of the Canadian National Team, she is a skilled post player with great hands, skills and basketball IQ. She should remain a staple in the Fever’s post rotation.
#40 • KAYLA ALEXANDER • C
Height: 6-5 / Year Pro: 6 / College: Syracuse ’13
Alexander was acquired in a February trade with the Las Vegas Aces after spending the past five seasons with the San Antonio Stars. She is a long and quick post player that gives Indiana a more athletic presence in the interior; and more game-planning versatility when matching against opponents. Also from Toronto and a Canadian teammate with Achonwa, Alexander symbolizes Indiana’s movement toward size and athleticism.
#8 • HIND BEN ABDELKADER • G
Height: 5-8 / Years Pro: Rookie / Country: Belgium
Ben Abdelkader enters camp as a bit of an unknown, even for the Fever coaching staff. She is a highly touted foreign player who is just 22 years old and one of the top guards in her native Belgium. She came to the United States to play as a freshman at the University of California in 2013-14, but returned home and turned professional after playing sparingly in 20 college games. She is a part of the Belgian National Team program and has played professionally in Spain, France, Poland and Turkey the past four seasons. A point guard, she is better known for her quick shooting release and deep shooting range, averaging 17.5 points per game and 42 percent shooting from 3-point range in Hatay, Turkey this past winter.
#4 • CANDICE DUPREE • F
Height: 6-2 / Years Pro: 13 / College: Temple ’06
Dupree is a six-time All-Star whose spot in the starting lineup is secure, as either a small or power forward. The versatile veteran topped the Fever scoring and rebounding charts with 15.0 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. The only game she missed last season was to remain home following the birth of twin girls in late July. She is married to Phoenix star DeWanna Bonner and her sister-in-law is Fever second-year forward Erica McCall. Dupree is expected to anchor a revamped Fever lineup that could give her greater flexibility and allow her to maintain a career shooting percentage above 50 percent.
#12 • BASHAARA GRAVES • F
Height: 6-2 / Years Pro: 2 / College: Tennessee ’16
Graves enters her third WNBA training camp. She was a second-round draft pick with Minnesota in 2016, and played 12 games with the Lynx before being waived. Invited to Fever camp in 2017, she played a pair of preseason games before being released. This season, she returns after averaging an 11-point, 11-rebound double-double in Israel last winter. After gaining experience and maturity overseas, she provides the Fever with an active, big frame in the post. She could challenge for a roster spot at power forward.
#1 • JAZMON GWATHMEY • Guard
Height: 6-2 / Years Pro: 3 / College: James Madison ’16
Gwathmey came to the Fever in a preseason trade last season and contributed mostly off the bench with averages of 6.2 points and 2.0 rebounds over 28 games. Impressively, she led the Fever with 22 blocked shots, displaying the length she provides on the perimeter. Gwathmey started seven games late in the 2017 season and showed flashes of a tall backcourt presence who can both score and affect shots on defense. She should again remain as a valuable depth component in Indiana’s guard rotation.
#5 • JENNIFER HAMSON • C
Height: 6-7 / Years Pro: 3 / College: BYU ’14
Hamson joined Indiana at midseason in 2017 and participated off the bench in 12 games. With a 6-7 frame and added experience, Hamson can impact the game on both ends of the floor. With a slight build, however, Hamson’s challenge will be to score and rebound consistently — last year averaging just 2.2 points and 2.1 boards in limited playing time. Her size can remain a factor, but the Fever also has added size with 6-5 Kayla Alexander and 6-3 Stephanie Mavunga.
#42 • SHENISE JOHNSON • G
Height: 5-11 / Years Pro: 7 / College: Miami ’12
The most telling statistic about Johnson’s sixth WNBA season last year was that Indiana was 2-16 without her. After scoring 22 points against Connecticut on July 1 and averaging a career-best 11.3 points through 16 games, she tore her left ACL in practice on July 11. Indiana was 7-9 at the time of her injury, yet won just 2 of 18 games the rest of the way. Her surgery and rehab have gone well and she is on track to return late in the 2018 season.
#2 • ERLANA LARKINS • C
Height: 6-1 / Years Pro: 9 / College: North Carolina ’08
The 32-year old Larkins has been a Fever regular since joining the club during its 2012 championship campaign. She is the second-leading rebounder in franchise history and remains a beast on the boards. Larkins has had a stellar overseas winter in Turkey, averaging 13 points and 11 rebounds per game, but her WNBA productivity was limited to 4.2 points and 4.9 rebounds last summer. Larkins remains a very valuable leader and rebounder, but she will need to stave off Father Time and younger challengers to increase that productivity in 2018.
#23 • STEPHANIE MAVUNGA • F
Height: 6-3 / Years Pro: Rookie / College: Ohio State ’18
Mavunga, out of Brownsburg High School prior to a college career split between North Carolina and Ohio State, is the third former Indiana Miss Basketball star to enter training camp with the Fever, joining past stars Shyra Ely (Ben Davis) and Stephanie White (Seeger). She is a powerful, 6-3 power forward and rebounder who Indiana claimed with the 14th overall pick in the WNBA Draft. The sister-in-law of Fever guard Jeanette Pohlen-Mavunga, she could contribute as a rookie. In college, she posted four straight seasons of double-figure scoring with at least eight rebounds per game. She averaged 16.6 points and 11.0 boards for the Buckeyes last winter and her 19 double-doubles ranked ninth nationally. The first-team All-Big Ten selection had one of her best games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse with 26 points and a tournament-record 21 caroms in a semifinal win last March over Minnesota.
#22 • ERICA McCALL • F
Height: 6-2 / Years Pro: 2 / College: Stanford ’17
McCall was a USA Basketball teammate of Mavunga’s, and she is the sister-in-law of veteran All-Star Candice Dupree. More importantly, McCall is a versatile small forward in a mold similar to Dupree who was the Fever’s top draft pick last year at No. 17 in the WNBA Draft. She logged semi-regular playing time a year ago with 3.3 points and 2.3 rebounds per game in 30 appearances. As a second-year player, she will need to be more assertive and compete with the influx of newcomers. McCall is regarded for her mid-range jumper and athleticism. She can affect play inside and out and may only need continued grooming to become a more regular contributor.
#0 • KELSEY MITCHELL • G
Height: 5-8 / Years Pro: Rookie / College: Ohio State ’18
Kelsey Mitchell is the most heralded of Indiana’s newcomers, recently selected No. 2 overall in the WNBA Draft and just this week making her debut appearance with the USA National Team in an exhibition vs. China. She is a point guard who can score. Fever coaches feel that with greater talent around her, she’ll only get better. She finished her college career as the NCAA’s second-leading scorer of all time. Her 497 career 3-pointers were the most by any player in college history. She was a four-year starter for the Buckeyes with double-figure scoring and 40 percent 3-point accuracy all four seasons. She can score with quickness, drive to the rim, create her own mid-range jumper or drill long-distance 3-pointers. With the Fever, she is likely to split time with Erica Wheeler at the point, and with several other players at the 2-guard. A true combo player who has been regarded for her work ethic, Fever coaches salivate at her potential. In college, she wore #3 on her jersey, but in Indiana, she’ll wear “K. Mitchell” and #0 due to her already established new teammate, Tiffany Mitchell.
#3 • TIFFANY MITCHELL • G
Height: 5-9 / Years Pro: 3 / College: South Carolina ’16
Tiffany Mitchell already owns status as the best free throw shooter in Fever history — nearly 92 percent with over 200 attempts in two seasons. She might best be regarded for her quickness and ability to create off the dribble, and thus get to the rim and the free throw stripe. She was averaging 10.3 points per game during her second pro season, when she tore cartilage in her right knee. Offseason surgery has her ready for the 2018 campaign and she recently competed with Kelsey Mitchell as part of USA Basketball’s national team minicamp last week. Mitchell & Mitchell project as solid backcourt contributors alongside Vivians, Wheeler, Gwathmey and eventually Johnson when she returns from her own rehab.
#9 • ALEXIS PETERSON • G
Height: 5-7 / Years Pro: 2 / College: Syracuse ’17
Peterson is another point guard, brought to camp primarily as depth and possibly to scratch out a spot among the deep backcourt lineup. She was a second-round draft pick of the Seattle Storm last season, but played sparingly and was waived last week by the Storm. Peterson is the career assists leader at Syracuse and the second-leading scorer in school history behind another former Orange star in Fever camp, Kayla Alexander. Peterson led the Orange to the 2016 national championship game which was played at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
#32 • JEANETTE POHLEN-MAVUNGA • G
Height: 6-0 / Years Pro: 7 / College: Stanford ’11
Battling her own injuries and finding roster position as the result of other injuries, Pohlen-Mavunga begins her seventh season in a Fever uniform. From the early days of her career when she led the WNBA in 3-point percentage as a rookie, Pohlen-Mavunga has always been ready to play and contribute at a high level, and her willingness to prepare as a reserve has been vital to her success. With three Fever guards on the shelf late last season, she produced double-digit scoring three times in August — for the first time since 2013. She had her best season since 2012, in fact, averaging 3.4 points as part of 29 appearances. But with age and the influx of highly regarded guards, Pohlen-Mavunga will again be challenged to find ways to contribute.
#7 • JENNIE SIMMS • G
Height: 6-0 / Years Pro: 2 / College: Old Dominion ’17
* Update: Jennie Simms was waived on May 4.
Simms finds herself in a similar circumstance as Pohlen-Mavunga, so far as competing through new depth for playing time. She gained opportunity late last season when she was signed by Indiana in the season’s final week as a replacement player following the season-ending loss of three guards. The conference player of the year in Conference USA just two seasons ago, she was drafted by Washington last year and played 10 games as a rookie before being released. Indiana picked her up for four games to end the season. With strong offensive skills, Fever coaches re-signed her as a free agent in February.
#35 • VICTORIA VIVIANS • G
Height: 6-1 / Years Pro: Rookie / College: Mississippi State ’18
Vivians, like Kelsey Mitchell, defines the Fever’s powerhouse draft class. She is a big guard who excels on defense — and who, like Mitchell, averaged double-figure scoring over four college seasons with 40 percent 3-point shooting every year. She can give Indiana size and length on the perimeter, and she has played in some of the biggest games and biggest moments in the women’s game. She helped lead Mississippi State to back-to-back trips to the national championship game, enduring overtime or a last-second shot in all four Final Four games she played the past two years. The face of the program at MSU the past four seasons, the former homecoming queen known as “Queen Victoria” should see a significant role at both the “2” or “3” positions.
#17 • ERICA WHEELER • G
Height: 5-7 / Years Pro: 4 / College: Rutgers ’13
Three years ago, Wheeler was an undrafted free agent hoping to find a job. She found one and bounced between Atlanta and New York in 2015. In 2016, she landed with Indiana and stuck as a backup. Last year, she emerged as a part-time and later full-time starter with a career-high 33 points at New York that fell a point shy of the franchise scoring mark. A ball of energy, Wheeler hits 3-pointers, drives and dishes, and set a club record last year with 4.1 assists per game. This year, she is the incumbent starter at point guard, expected to help tutor Kelsey Mitchell as her backup. She is one of the quickest players in the WNBA, and with presumably greater talent surrounding her, that assist average may continue rising.