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Back from Injury, January Ready for Great Season

 

I write to you this morning with a little extra “hop” in my step! I am, for those who don’t already know, a native of Denver, Colo. And thus, yes, I am by birth a Denver Broncos fanatic! Can you believe that finish to last night’s playoff game? As I tweeted immediately after the 80-yard pass play that ended the contest on the first play of overtime — “WOW, JUST WOW!”

 

As I thought of writing this blog last night after the euphoria died down, I tried to figure how in the world this Fever PR guy could talk Broncos in today’s blog. The truth is, it’s probably not applicable. However, I might take that excitement and optimism from last night’s game and apply it to the Fever star I have intended to write about!

 

Briann January was a flash of excitement and optimism for the Fever when, after being drafted in the first round of the 2009 WNBA Draft, she came off the bench to average 10.6 points and 3.0 assists per game during the playoffs of her rookie campaign. She had a 12-point scoring average in the WNBA Finals that year including a 17-point effort in Game 3 of The Finals in Indianapolis. She was almost immediately ordained as the Fever’s point guard of the future.

 

The following year, she started the first two games of the season, only to be replaced as a starter in Game 3 by Tully Bevilaqua. She wound up playing in 30 games of the 2010 season and she averaged 7.4 points and 3.1 assists. At the end of the year, again, she was proclaimed to be the point guard of the future.

 

By her third season, Bri appeared ready to take the reigns and play the role as the Fever’s “quarterback.” And after an 0-for-11 shooting night and a less-than-desired-3-point effort in a season-opening win over Chicago, she caught her stride. She scored in double figures in five of the next seven games, including a 12-point, 10-assist double-double on June 14 against Tulsa. Indiana was 6-3 through nine games including a dramatic road win on June 26 against eventual champion Minnesota.

 

Then disaster struck.

 

In the second half of a Fever win against Phoenix, on June 28, Bri collapsed to the floor in front of the Mercury bench with a torn ACL in her right knee. She was done for the season. The 24-year old future star was derailed with the first injury of her life. But, important to the Fever staff and its fans is how she has reacted to her situation!

 

The resilient Fever used athletic combo guard Erin Phillips to admirably fill the point position through the remainder of the 2011 season while January dealt with – and attacked – her rehabilitation.

 

Within days of her surgery, Bri was riding a bike, walking and even near-jogging. Mind you, the ACL impacts mostly lateral movement, so Bri’s forward motion was not as severely limited. However, her range of motion was astounding. At least that is what I heard all summer from our coaching and training staff.

 

Bri has passed test after test and continues meeting all of her rehabilitation goals. In a conversation I had with her last week, she talked about beginning to strengthen the knee and doing some basketball conditioning on the court.

 

I asked her the possibility of being ready in time for any action overseas, prior to the WNBA season in May. She said it had been considered, but that she and her doctors, and presumably the Fever staff, have suggested a more long-term approach meaning that she likely won’t play much before Fever training camp begins.

 

Bri is a very dynamic player who was beginning to find her place in the WNBA. She has been very positive in her approach to rehab and it helped that she was surrounded by her teammates all of last summer. She will begin her fourth year in the league this season and should be on pace to become a regular contributor again. One looming question that fans may have is, “who will be the starting point guard?”

 

In theory, either Bri or Erin could start at the point; and both are versatile as combo guards that they could probably share the backcourt together. However, with the 2012 Olympics looming and considering Erin’s place on the Australian team, it is likely that she could miss parts of the season. [And, she, too, is recovering from arthroscopic surgery from an injury sustained in Poland.]

 

Barring further setback, Bri should be in position to contend for that starting spot again. Her progress certainly will be something to watch this spring.

 

KM

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