Briann January, a former star from Lewis & Clark HS in Spokane, will make her first appearance as a WNBA All-Star on Saturday. The starting PG for Indiana was voted in by Eastern Conference coaches as a reserve for the East team.
The game will be played at US Airways Center in Phoenix and airs at 12:30 pm (PT) on ESPN. The East has won three of the past five All-Star games and is 3-8 overall in the midsummer classic. The squad will be led this season by Atlanta coach Michael Cooper.
“Briann’s been overlooked in the past; I’m excited for her,” Fever coach Lin Dunn told the team’s website.
January, a six-year vet out of Arizona State, will have plenty of fans in attendance as she makes her way back to her former college territory. She is one of three Pac-12 players chosen for the game.
Former Stanford stars Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike will be the first All-Star sisters in WNBA history. The pair already made pro sports history as the first female siblings to both be selected with the No. 1 overall pick in their league’s draft. Nneka was the top pick in 2012 to Los Angeles. Chiney was the No. 1 overall pick to Connecticut in April.
Only NFL stars Peyton and Eli Manning share the same distinction with the Ogwumikes.
January’s reaction was modest when told by Fever president and GM Kelly Krauskopf of the All-Star selection on Tuesday .
“Oh!” January shared with the team’s website. “It hasn’t really set in, yet, so it’s hard to get excited.”
January, 27, is in the midst of a career-best season in averaging 11.1 points on 38 percent shooting from the field while shooting 90.2 percent from the foul line despite a nagging ankle injury. She’s also averaging 4.3 assists this season.
But January, who’s 5-foot-8, was drafted sixth overall in 2009 by Indiana for her skills defensively. It helped the Fever win the franchise’s only WNBA championship in 2012.
January has the glitz expected in an All-Star matchup. She’s shooting 42.6 percent from three-point range, which ranks fifth in the league.
And it was her offense that was needed to start the Fever season as fellow All-Star Tamika Catchings missed 17 games due to a back injury. January recorded three 20-point games in May.
Indiana (10-12) has lost its past two games, including Tuesday to Los Angeles at home, and is second in Eastern Conference standings. The Fever makes its only trip to play at KeyArena on July 31.
“I’m excited for her,” said Catchings of January’s selection. Catchings was voted an All-Star starter by fans despite not having played a game when voting concluded July 2. In her five games since returning, however, Catchings is averaging 17.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists.
“Every year you see her get more and more consistent,” Catchings continued about January. “That’s a thing we continue to talk about — her evolving as a leader and continuing to be more consistent with the team and her role as a point guard.”