Training camp is underway for the Indiana Fever, and by all accounts, so far, so good. The whole camp roster, from the seven new players to the 11 returners, is elated to be back in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“There’s definitely excitement and high energy,” fifth-year center Natalie Achonwa said. “It’s a group that you can feel the vibe when you walk in the gym. It’s very positive and everyone’s patting each other on the back, keeping energy really high throughout practice.”
All-Star forward Candice Dupree, who is starting her 14th WNBA season, agrees and thinks the fresh faces have helped create the positive camp environment.
“The energy is great,” she said. “Lot of new faces, young players, so I think they’re all eager to learn. They’re excited. They keep some of us older players young. So far it’s been pretty good.”
Head coach Pokey Chatman has noticed the camp atmosphere as well and is happy with how veteran players are showing the rest of the roster the ropes.
“There’s so much energy and excitement and teaching, not just from my coaching staff,” Chatman said. “For me it’s just nice to walk through the locker room and I hear someone in the locker room talking about something we put in, in practice. I go in the training room, they’re talking about it. They’re eager to learn, and there are some eager teachers that know that these players can help us.”
Players the veterans are especially looking after are the highly-touted rookies. Holding picks 2, 8 and 14 in last month’s WNBA Draft, the Fever selected Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell (No. 2 pick) and Stephanie Mavunga (No. 14 pick) and Mississippi State’s Victoria Vivians (No. 8 pick). It’s important to get them up to speed because all three have the potential to play from the get-go.
“They excelled in their programs in college, so they’re definitely elite athletes, elite players,” Achonwa said. “Everyone we got could come in and contribute.”
As far as what’s been stressed to them so far, it’s communication and making sure they ask questions. In a meeting before the team’s first practice of camp the importance of communication was discussed and it’s been hammered home constantly since.
“Don’t be scared and communicate,” Vivians said of what she’s taken away from the early days of training camp. “That’s the biggest thing they’ve been talking about to all of us is communication.”
“I’ve let them know that if they have questions, please ask,” Dupree said. “Don’t keep it to yourself. It’s going to make us better because there might be other people that are wondering the same thing that you’re wondering.”
“They’ve done a good job of coming up to me and asking questions, and if they don’t and I see something that they’re not doing, I have no problem approaching them.”
As for the rookies themselves, to this point, they’ve enjoyed their first WNBA camp experience.
“It’s been really great,” Mavunga said. “There’s a lot of energy. The team has just been feeding off each other’s energy. It’s just been a big learning process for me. I’ve learned a lot thus far.”
“They’ve [the veterans] been very helpful,” Vivians added. “When we have questions they always answer, and they have positive attitudes. If we see them working hard, we work hard behind them. It’s been pretty good.”
And to say the least, the team is happy to have them around. They’ve already made an impression despite only wearing a Fever jersey for a short amount of time.
“They’ve adjusted really well,” Chatman. “They’re in here early. They’re in here late. They’re texting. They’re calling. They want help. They want work. They’re all three doing really well.”
“The three of them, they’re funny,” Achonwa added. “They really bring a lightness to our practice.”
All in all, the team wants to have a great training camp in order to make sure this year is not a repeat of 2017. They’re ready to show that last season was a fluke for the franchise.
“Talking to Todd [Champlin] our trainer, he had mentioned how he was gonna leave but he couldn’t because he felt like we have unfinished business, and I couldn’t agree more,” Dupree said. “I think we definitely underachieved. This year, I think players are buying into the system. They’re excited and ready to go.”