Growing pains, promising signs from Indiana Fever rookies


INDIANAPOLIS ‚— The Indiana Fever are smack dab in the middle of one of the biggest rebuilds we have seen in recent years.

More from Indiana Fever

The Fever held three of the top 14 picks in this years WNBA draft. No. 2 pick, Kelsey Mitchell, the 8th pick, Victoria Vivians, and the 14th overall pick, Stephanie Mavunga. It’s been a little over five weeks since draft night and the Fever rookies have been thrown into the fire.

With that comes a lot of growing pains, evident in an 82-64 home opening loss to the Chicago Sky to start the season.

“Its been hectic going from college, to being grateful enough to be a part of the draft, to going to Seattle to be a part of the USA National team and then coming back here and trying to adjust and find my way,” Mitchell told High Post Hoops, standing in front of her locker following the game. “And then get to the first game and kind of let the chips fall where they may. It’s just been really hectic. It’s not an excuse, just one of those learning experiences.”

Mitchell is the all-time leading scoring in the Big Ten and the second-leading scorer in NCAA history. She was chosen to be at the core of the rebuild and a key figure in the future of the organization.

One area of her game she’s struggled with the most sinse making the jump as a pro? “Slowing down. Knowing the style of play that I’m dealing with and being able to adjust the right way,” said Mitchell who finished the game with five points on 2-8 shooting, and 1-5 beyond the arc in 13 minutes of play.

“What I saw in camp I didn’t see a whole lot today,” Fever head coach Pokey Chatman said about all three rookies, mentioning Mitchell in particular. “It’s not about shots. The shots that Kelsey missed, I want her to take again.”

Victoria Vivians finished the game with three points in just over five minutes. She knows a thing or two about scoring herself, scoring over 2,500 points in her Mississippi State career. Shortly after checking into her official WNBA debut, she drained a three from the wing, showing a brief flash of what she is capable of doing.

“The process has been going really fast, coming straight from college straight into my first WNBA game, I don’t even think its been a full month on the court,” Vivians said postgame. “But I know after this game, we’ve got another one. We need to just put this one behind us. It is what it is. What happened, happened. We just need to prepare for the next one.”

Stephanie Mavunga quietly snuck into the second round. Indiana felt fortunate to have had her on the table when their third pick came around and the feeling is mutual. “It’s definitely been a blessing getting drafted to my hometown and having the opportunity to play in front of them again,” Mavunga said, standing in front of her locker. “I’ve had fun learning every single day.”

She added, “It’s been a whirlwind, a lot of ups and downs. I have definitely learned a lot in the last six weeks. I’ve grown as a player, grown as an individual and as a professional. It’s been great learning from veterans and learning from my fellow rookies as well. Whatever I can do to better the team, if that’s offensively, defensively, rebounding, screening, whatever it is that the team needs, that’s exactly what it is that I’m trying to provide.”

The Fever have a quick turnaround, facing Washington next. These two teams met in preseason resulting in a 91-56 Fever loss. Chatman’s biggest point of emphasis for Sunday’s game is transition defense.

“Washington is a veteran team with a lot of shooters and also some individual scorers and its going to start with that,” Chatman said. “I think you also couple that with the ability to take care of the basketball and be in attack mode.”

For this young team and these rookies, it is about building that foundation, taking the teaching points and continuing to move forward.

“Find one thing on both sides of the ball that you can do twice as well as you did today,” Chatman said. “You do that individually, then collectively, and it’ll be a nice little package. That has to be the approach.”

The Mystics host the Fever Sunday, May 20th at 1pm ET at Capital One Arena.