Training camp for the Indiana Fever is underway and so far, this year’s camp has somewhat of a different feel from previous seasons. Fever legend Tamika Catchings is no longer donning an Indiana jersey, the team has a new coach in Pokey Chatman, key players, such as Marissa Coleman and Shenise Johnson, are not in camp yet as they are still fulfilling their commitments with their teams overseas, and there are fresh faces trying to make the roster.
To date, camp has been about developing chemistry and learning a new system.
“So far, everybody’s working hard,” Fever guard Jeanette Pohlen-Mavunga said. “We have a lot of new players right now, so I think everyone is doing a great job learning, trying to get acclimated with everything. I think it’s a little bit of a learning experience for everyone.”
“There’s a lot of learning, a lot of breakdowns,” Fever forward Bashaara Graves said. “We start off practice breaking down plays. Everyone’s learning together.”
In her first year at the helm, Chatman has been teaching her concepts in an effort to get Indiana to play at a faster tempo.
“Part of it is continuing the culture that is here,” she said of her plan for the team. “We want to play a little bit faster in transition, so implementing some things there.”
So far, the players are in-synch with what Chatman is teaching.
“I mean it’s definitely an adjustment but not as difficult as maybe people were expecting,” Pohlen-Mavunga said of working under a new coach. “Pokey wants to keep our defensive mentality and to just keep some of the same principles that we had used in the past years here.”
“I wouldn’t say huge change,” Fever forward Natalie Achonwa said when asked about what’s different about this year’s camp. “There are some similarities in what we’re doing. Of course when you have a new coach, it’s different points of emphasis.”
And what exactly is being emphasized?
“Pokey loves to run,” Achonwa continued. “Transition defense, transition offense has been a focus. It’s been very competitive. We’ve just really been trying to get up and down and just trying to run.”
Achonwa isn’t lying. To illustrate her point, Chatman has put signs all over the practice court detailing the importance of transition defense.
“Pokey always says that our half-court defense is great,” Achonwa said. “When she was with Chicago, she hated playing against our half-court defense, but where we’re lacking is in transition defense. So you can see that incorporated in a lot of the drills that we do to make sure that the other teams aren’t getting easy buckets.”
“It’s been new for everybody, but I’ve been excited, and it’s been good so far.”
Along with learning concepts, the early days of camp have also been a chance for new players to show their skills. Candice Dupree, a WNBA veteran and All-Star who the Fever acquired through a trade in the offseason, is one who fits into that category. She even came to camp faster than expected, arriving right after her season in Europe had concluded.
“That’s a vet,” Chatman said. “She’s hungry. She’s coming to a new place and wants to learn the system.”
Dupree has quickly established her presence with Indiana, especially with Fever veteran point guard Briann January. By the way January talks about her new teammate, you can tell just how excited she is to have her on the roster.
“She can handle the ball. She spaces out the floor for us. She can hit the outside shot consistently. She gets in there, rebounds. She’s one of the best rebounders in the league. She faciliates well on offense. She’s just a leader. She’s been successful in the league for so long. You don’t talk about replacing Catch (Tamika Catchings), but if there was somebody who could come in and do a great job at it, it’s her.”
Things have been running smoothly so far, but the Fever know that practice will really ramp up when the entire roster finally arrives to Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“The biggest thing is getting players here,” Chatman said of the rest of training camp. “We’re missing a few, but that’s just the nature of this time of the year. As the days go on, some of the players will start trickling in, so it should be a seamless transition when the new bodies are here.”
“We have a great group here, and I can’t wait for the rest of the team to get here,” January said. “Every day we just have to sharpen it up and get better. The better this group is when we get our other people, it will just raise our competition level and make us a better team.”
Ultimately, the purpose of training camp is to prepare for the regular season, and though there is still some time before the games begin, the team is itching to compete against another team.
“We’ve been working hard,” Fever center Victoria Macaulay said. “We’re ready to play, ready to start the season up.”
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