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How Jeanette Pohlen’s Rookie Year Stacks Up

 

Time is just flying by these days, isn’t it? I can’t believe it’s mid-January. Within two weeks, we’ll be knee-deep in Super Bowl hoopla here in downtown Indianapolis and only a month after that, we’ll already have dove into March Madness with Big Ten men’s and women’s basketball tournaments here at The Fieldhouse!

 

To keep the conversation going about Jeanette Pohlen who took time last week for a short Q&A with FeverBasketball.com, I wanted to examine just where her 2011 season fits with past Fever rookies. Indeed, she joined Tamika Catchings as the only Fever rookies ever to lead the WNBA in a season statistical category. But how close was she to Catchings’ rookie success? How about any others?

 

The first thing to note is that no other Fever rookie can come close to comparing with Catchings’ magical campaign of 2002. The ’02 WNBA Rookie of the Year led the league in steals and ranked among league leaders in virtually every statistical category, like she does every year! She was the runner-up in balloting for MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. So we’ll place Tamika as having the best rookie season in Fever history. But where should Pohlen rank?

 

Besides leading the WNBA with 46.8 percent 3-point accuracy, she averaged 3.9 points, 1.4 rebounds and 1.0 assist per game. She was one of just three players to appear in all 34 regular season games and made two starts – replacing Tangela Smith on one occasion and Katie Douglas on the other. The Fever’s first-round draft pick (9th overall), Jeanette’s rookie summer falls in a class with Briann January (2009), Tan White (2005), Ebony Hoffman (2004), Coretta Brown (2003) and Niele Ivey (2001).

 

It is tough to compare players between the Fever’s non-playoff era (Brown and Ivey) and its current playoff era with seven straight playoff appearances since 2005. For instance, might Pohlen or January have been relied upon a great deal more during their rookie campaigns without a stable lineup with four All-Stars? Probably so.

 

Statistically, Jeanette falls near the low end of the comparison with 3 of 5 having more points per game – White (7.1), January (6.9), Brown (6.2), Ivey (3.6) and Hoffman (2.0). Ivey didn’t score as much, but she started 26 games during what was the franchise’s second season. But what impact did each of these six players have? What role did they play relative to her teammates?

 

If Catchings is No. 1 overall, I’m going to rank Bri and Tan White as 2 and 3. Tan could have started on that 2005 team, but instead played the super-sub role while finishing fourth on the team in scoring. By comparison, she hit 25-of-81 3-pointers (.309) and had a whopping 70 turnovers. Bri played in 33 games with four starts, hit 25-of-87 (.287) 3-point attempts and had 57 turnovers. But why I give Bri the No. 2 ranking is based on her impact in the playoffs and, specifically, the WNBA Finals. No other Fever rookie has reached the Finals to make any comparison, but the impact she had in helping Indiana reach the Finals is reason enough.

 

I am ranking Jeanette’s rookie season as a No. 4/5 tie with Coretta Brown. You’ll see their numbers are remarkably similar and where Coretta’s are higher, Jeanette’s could well have been higher if not playing during the playoff era. Then again, it’s worth considering that Coretta played in just a 32-game season — and on a team that missed the playoffs on the final day of the season. Conveniently, they both played the same position — coming off the bench mostly as a “2″ guard but with backup capability at the point.

 

Coretta had a relatively short career despite her great rookie season. She started 30 games with two starts (compared to 34 and 2 for Jeanette). She shot 36-of-100 3-pointers (.360), finishing second to Catchings in 3-pointers made and attempted. She had a 26-point game at Connecticut which, shared by Tan White, is the most by a Fever rookie besides Catchings. For comparison’s sake, she contributed 21 steals with 36 turnovers. Pohlen had 13 steals and 21 turnovers. Brown played 522 minutes, Pohlen 539.

 

Pohlen is the more steady player of the two and Brown the more explosive. Jeanette played in more big games than Brown and she was a drop-dead shooter off the bench that helped an Indiana playoff team remain a solid contender. Coretta, though, was a slashing scorer like Tan White who nearly lifted Indiana to the playoffs, but for a home loss to Connecticut on the final Sunday of the year.

 

I was disappointed that Coretta’s career didn’t last longer, but she was much smaller in stature at a time that the talent in the women’s game was exploding (and the league contracting). Jeanette, however, is a much bigger and stronger guard than Coretta, with college experience at the point.

 

Where will Jeanette’s career go from here? At the least, she could be a regular staple for the Fever longer than the three WNBA seasons served by Coretta Brown. Of those players compared above, the ’04 and ’05 draft picks of Ebony Hoffman and Tan White were very strong. Though not still with the Fever, both are still in the league and both remain among Fever career leaders in many statistical categories. Including Briann January in 2009, Pohlen’s 2011 draft selection could join Hoffman and White — and Tamika Catchings — among the best draft picks in Indiana history.

 

KM

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