Mumbai: 2012 WNBA Title Champion and 2014 All-Star Briann January was in the city for the launch of the ACG NBA Jump on Monday. The 5'8" point guard grew up playing with her friends in Spokane, Washington, and that was where she discovered her passion for the game.
Briann was selected for the USA Women's National Team pool in 2013. When asked about the difference she's felt training with the national team, she explained, "You are playing with some of the best players in the world. We have a great tradition in the USA of having an outstanding women's basketball program and just to be able to contribute to the team's success is an honour."
The All-Star has also mentioned in the past that she is a Gandhi devotee. The freedom fighter's vast knowledge and ability to deal with situations are some of the attributes that inspired the basketball star.
"I could be here talking all day about Mahatma Gandhi. I would really want to soak up his knowledge and his understanding of the world. His principles are something that I would love to practice and something that more people should embrace," January said during the event.
With Satnam Singh becoming the first Indian-born basketball player to be drafted by an NBA team earlier this year, her message for the young and aspiring players in India was crisp and clear.
"Him being drafted should inspire a lot of players in India. Satnam Singh has made the dream of playing in the big leagues tangible for Indian basketball players. They should hold on to their dreams."
The 2012 title Champion believes that eventually, India could surely have a pro-basketball league on the lines of the NBA.
"This program will help children learn a lot about basketball while they're young. They will continue to work on their game and skills, and by the time they are 18 or 20 years old, they will be skilled basketball players who will be able to compete around the world. Down the line, I see some players getting integrated into the NBA for sure," she said brimming with optimism.
The fever point guard has added another dimension to her game this season. One of the top performers defensively, January has stepped her game up by adopting a more offensive approach. For this, she gives full credit to the new coach, "We had a new coach in Stephanie White this year. Even though we had a new coach, our values stayed the same. She is definitely more offence-minded. That was something that made the whole team better because we've always had great defensive organisation."
January, who loves playing overseas, has also spent time playing in Israel and Turkey during off-season. When asked about the differences between the WNBA and Asian leagues, the ace basketball player explained, "The players there like to score all the time. It's fun basketball. It's fun to go out there and play freely. The level of skills is quite comparable."
The third-leading scorer of Fever's Championship winning team has also spent time on the coaching side of the sport, spending the 2013-14 season as a volunteer assistant coach for the Adelphi University Women's Basketball Program.
"I absolutely loved it. It gave me a new perspective on the game. As a point-guard, you are an extension of your coach. Being on the coaching staff actually inspired me to pursue coaching after I stop playing."
A title winner and three time finalist with Indiana Fever, January picked out the best moments of her career so far.
"Winning the Championship is something a lot of players don't get to experience during their entire career. I consider myself to be lucky. As a team, we have won the title one time, reached the final six times, and in the seven years of my WNBA career, we have made it to the eastern conference finals six times." she effervesced.
January has also sustained repeated knee injuries, the latest coming in the first half of game 5 of the WNBA finals against Minnesota Lynx this year. The point-guard still carried on, bagging 13 points and three assists to her name.
When enquired about the key to her courage and attitude, she revealed, "The will to win kept me going. I would have had to lose a leg to get off the court. That's how badly I wanted to win. I was willing to give everything that I had for my teammates because we wanted to win together. I wanted to be a champion and I wanted to help my team be successful."
Daughter of a karate instructor, Briann is a black-belt in the martial art herself. "I practise karate when I go home, as my father is an instructor. I also like to go out and try new food. Yes, I am a bit of a foodie, so I love eating. I'm very excited to try Indian food here."
Briann also revealed that teammate Tamika Catchings is one of her role models. "Tamika Catchings is one of the best female players to have played the game. She is the ultimate team-player. She is the perfect example of what a professional should be. She plays with so much heart, It's hard to match. She just makes you play better when she is around you," she added.
One of the true legends of the game, Kobe Bryant recently announced his retirement from professional basketball. January expressed her views about the same, saying," He is one of the best of all times. I wish he would've gone out on a better season. This season is no reflection of his career. It's phenomenal how people are showing their respect to him and his game, and also the impact he has made in the league. People need to pay tribute, even if you aren't a Los Angeles Lakers fan or a Kobe fan, you have to acknowledge his skill and what he has brought to the game."
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