Coleman, Indiana Could Be Perfect Fit
By Wheat Hotchkiss
The Fever made their first splash in free agency on Friday afternoon, signing veteran forward Marissa Coleman to a multi-year contract.
Coleman figures to be an important part of the Fever roster over the next few seasons. At 6-foot-1 with solid handles and a nice stroke from the outside, Coleman has good size and is capable of playing multiple positions. Fever head coach Lin Dunn can utilize Coleman in a variety of ways depending on need, much like how she’s made use of players like Tamika Catchings and Karima Christmas.
Coleman’s talent is undeniable. She was an All-American at Maryland, where she won a national championship as a freshman and was the ACC tournament’s Most Valuable Player as a senior, when she helped the Terrapins to their first ACC title since 1989 (Lynetta Kizer, now Coleman’s teammate with the Fever, was a freshman on that Maryland squad). She was the first player in the storied history of ACC women’s basketball to record over 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 400 assists, 200 steals and 100 blocks in her college career.
Coming out of college, Coleman was drafted second overall by the Washington Mystics in 2009. Coleman was a key contributor from Day 1 in Washington. She averaged 6.1 points per game as a rookie, then upped that to 6.5 points per game in 2010, when the Mystics tied for the best record in the East.
Coleman’s best season statistically came in 2011. After the Mystics shifted into rebuilding mode, Coleman moved into a starting role. She averaged 8.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game in 2011, shooting a solid 37 percent from 3-point range.
The following offseason, Coleman was traded to Los Angeles in exchange for Noelle Quinn. Over the next two seasons, Coleman moved into a supporting role with the Sparks, playing behind two-time WNBA MVP Candace Parker. She shot 40 percent from three last season and has shown an ability to increase her production when called upon — Coleman averaged 10.7 points (up from a season average of 4.6) when Parker missed three games last August with a wrist injury.
In Indiana, Coleman’s addition will help smooth the transition at the wing positions with the departures of Erin Phillips (traded to Phoenix for Lynetta Kizer and a first round pick) and Katie Douglas (signed with Connecticut). Coleman’s outside shooting and versatility make her a valuable player who figures to see a good amount of minutes on the wing.
Over the past couple years, several players have seen their careers take off after joining the Fever.
Karima Christmas was traded to Indiana midway through the 2012 season and developed into a key cog in the starting lineup when injuries hit last year.
Erlana Larkins was out of the WNBA for two full seasons before signing with Indiana, where she has emerged as one of the league’s most relentless rebounders. Jessica Breland experienced a similar career renaissance with the Fever last year, playing well enough to earn a contract with the Chicago Sky this offseason.
And of course, Shavonte Zellous has slowly but surely grown from a solid bench player to an All-Star and the league’s Most Improved Player.
Marissa Coleman has already proven herself as a productive WNBA player. She should continue to produce for the Fever, and if the recent pattern of improvement in Indiana continues, she could turn out to be the steal of the offseason.