Briann January looked like a blur again.
The lightning-quick point guard was all over the place in the first quarter of Indiana’s home preseason game against San Antonio on May 9, showing no ill effects from the right ACL injury she suffered early last season.
The stats were nice: nine points, three assists to one turnover, 4-for-7 shooting in a 78-69 win.
Perhaps the most important stat: January played 9:07 in the first quarter and didn’t appear to slow down or have issues.
Indiana’s championship hopes might well depend on her remaining healthy. January had emerged as one of the league’s top point guards when she went down last season, averaging five assists in the 10 games she played. She gave the Fever a pass-first player who could create off the dribble on offense, and a pesky defender who often created problems for opponents by stepping into passing lanes.
Indiana has been to the playoffs seven consecutive years, including four trips to the Eastern Conference Finals and a trip to the WNBA Finals in 2009. January’s speed might have been the missing element in the Eastern Conference Finals against Atlanta last year. Ironically, Indiana starts this season at home Saturday against Atlanta.
January said she’s ready to get going.
œIt’s feeling good, she said. œI’m just out there playing basketball, getting comfortable with my teammates.
Her recovery was slow at first.
œFor a long time, they kept that short leash on me and wanted me to take it slow, she said. œI’ve actually been out there and able to play for a while now. The intensity and the level has definitely stepped up, and that’s what I’m getting used to now.
Fever forward Tamika Catchings, who had previously recovered from an ACL injury, said January worked hard during her rehab effort.
œI know Bri took this whole offseason rehabbing her knee, rehabbing her knee and getting back with the ACL. Me having gone through it too, I know what it feels like, that first game getting on the court. I think she’s done a good job getting back to the level she’s at. We all just have to get comfortable with her being back out there.
January already has convinced her teammates that she’s ready to play at a high level.
œBri looks great coming off a serious ACL injury, Fever guard Katie Douglas said. œIt looks like she hasn’t missed a beat.
January’s absence gave the Fever a chance to look at Erin Phillips. The Australian stepped in admirably and has earned a spot in the rotation this year, even with January’s return.
œThey can both play the 2, Fever coach Lin Dunn said. œThey’re not limited to one position. We’re going to experiment some with them out there together. It sounds like a problem, but I like that kind of problem.
Dunn won’t go easy on January as she works her way back.
œShe looks as quick and explosive as she did last year, Dunn said. œWe’re just letting her play her way back into shape.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cliffbrunt_isl.