— Fever Celebrates Renewed Relationships While Tipping Off Historic 2016 Season —
The Indiana Fever have a lot to celebrate at this year’s season opener. Coming off a 20-win season, an Eastern Conference championship, and a deep WNBA Finals run in 2015, the Fever return eight players from last year’s roster including superstar forward Tamika Catchings. And don’t forget second-year head coach, Stephanie White, who became the first rookie coach in league history to direct a team to the Finals.
A new season – a historic season; an Olympic season; and Catchings’ final season … all have arrived.
Saturday’s game should not only showcase a talented and experienced Fever team, but a game laden with exciting and remarkable relationships, starting with former teammates White and Catchings. Fever teammates from 2001-03, their relationship provides a small snapshot into what makes 2016 a special season – White assuming a second year of head-coaching authority and Catchings embarking on a historic 16th and final pro season.
Certainly, the Fever franchise will eventually transition from the Catchings era to the post-Catchings era. Hopefully it will be as smooth a transition as from the Lin Dunn coaching era to the Stephanie White era. Masterful in weaving the relationships, though, has been President and GM Kelly Krauskopf.
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Two Wings players were once acquired to join the Fever in trades orchestrated by Krauskopf. Dallas stars Karima Christmas and Erin Phillips both were contributing members of Indiana’s 2012 WNBA championship team. The two combined for 25 points and 13 rebounds in the clinching Game 4 to help seal the finals series against Minnesota. Saturday, they’ll face the Fever in opposing colors.
A renewed relationship brought about by another Krauskopf trade acquisition features former Notre Dame teammates Natalie Achonwa and Devereaux Peters. Peters joins the Fever from Minnesota this year and will pair with Achonwa while battling Fighting Irish alumnus and Dallas point guard Skylar Diggins. All three were members of Notre Dame’s 2010-11 and 2011-12 squads which made back-to-back appearances in NCAA national championship games.
“It’s definitely going to be fun playing against Sky [Diggins] for the first game,” said Peters. “And I love playing with Nat [Achonwa]. We did great in college together. We had good chemistry and I just hope we bring that back here.”
Peters, who was drafted by the Minnesota Lynx in 2012, played against the Fever in last year’s WNBA Finals. Comparing an opposing Fever team with her new Fever team, Peters thinks this year’s Fever squad should have another strong year.
“Obviously Coach [White] is going to bring that same mindset and push the same energy. It’s a similar team. It’s going to be fast paced,” said Peters, a native of nearby Chicago. “I’m really excited to be a part of this and come back to my second home in Indiana.”
While relationships can play an important part in the chemistry of a team, it will take a lot more than that to reach the Finals again this year.
The Fever’s younger members have created a great deal of excitement surrounding the season with an excellent showing in the preseason. Newcomers Erica Wheeler, Tiffany Mitchell, and Brene Moseley all exploded with double-digit scoring efforts in the team’s preseason opener against Dallas.
Maggie Lucas also gave two stellar performances against the Wings and Washington Mystics to start her third campaign with the Fever. Lucas led all scorers against Dallas, shooting 7-of-15 from the floor and sinking five 3-point field goals to contribute 22 points. Against the Mystics she dished out five assists and had 12 points.
Mitchell, Indiana’s 2016 first-round selection, averaged 10.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in the Fever’s two preseason appearances.
White says there’s no question these youngsters will have an impact on this season’s success, but not without challenges.
“I expect them to contribute, no doubt about it, but there’s going to be a learning curve,” explained White. “Our expectation is for them to continue to get better every day and work really hard to be ready on the defensive end of the floor. We’ll live with the things that come along the way in terms of their growth, on the offensive end of the floor and just learning the pace of the league.”
After losing in Game 5 of the WNBA Finals last year, this Indiana team is eager and ready to begin the regular season on Saturday in hopes of another Finals appearance and a 2016 title. In order to get to that point, White says this team will need to focus on improving their coverage on defense.
“I think our defensive coverages; our one-on-one defense, to be able to contain dribble drives; and our rebounding have to be better,” Coach said. “We’ve got to do a better job of rebounding the basketball.”
Rebounding and defense will be a key in Saturday’s opener, facing a Dallas squad regarded for its high-octane scoring under coach Fred Williams last year in Tulsa, and known for its offensive rebounding behind center Courtney Paris. If a 108-90 Indiana preseason win over Dallas on May 1 was any indication, a high-scoring opener may be in store on Saturday.
Points may be in ample supply Saturday, but there’s more relationships, too. Who was head coach of the Wings/Shock franchise prior to Williams? None other than Indiana assistant coach Gary Kloppenburg. Fittingly, Williams’ assistant coach, Bridget Pettis, is another former Fever player and a native of East Chicago, Ind.
Yes, Relationships abound, but basketball is at hand. A new season – a historic season; an Olympic season; and Catchings’ final season … all have arrived. After celebrating last year’s conference championship in a pregame ceremony, the 2015 season will be in the rear view mirror with all eyes focused on 2016 and the goal of more championships.
Practice Report: Briann January —
Briann January spoke with FeverBasketball.com about the Fever’s May 14 season opener against the Dallas Wings.
Pratice Report: Maggie Lucas —
Briann January caught up with Maggie Lucas after practice to discuss the Fever’s season opener against the Dallas Wings.
Pratice Report: Natalie Achonwa —
Natalie Achonwa spoke with FeverBasketball.com about Opening Night, her role on the team, and the Notre Dame fans coming to see her play.
Pratice Report: Tiffany Mitchell —
FeverBasketball.com caught up with Tiffany Mitchell after practice to discuss her WNBA debut and being watched by her former coach, Dawn Staley.
Practice Report: Johnson, Larkins, and Kizer–
Shenise Johnson, Erlana Larkins, and Lynetta Kizer spoke with FeverBasketball.com about the progress the team has made and the keys to success against the Dallas Wings on Saturday, May 14.