Briann January is having it both ways, and she couldn’t be happier.
The former Lewis and Clark High School basketball star is still dishing out assists for the Indiana Fever of the WNBA, but also preparing to give out advice as an assistant coach at her alma mater, Arizona State.
The opportunity fell into January’s lap this spring when ASU assistant Amanda Levens left coach Charli Turner Thorne’s staff to become head coach at Nevada.
“We’ve been talking about this for a few years,” Turner Thorne told the Arizona Republic last month. “She’s always been interested about going into coaching.”
But this is about more than basketball, said January, one of the most decorated players ever to come out of Spokane.
“This is a pivotal time for young women,” January said. “I had that kind of help growing up, and I want to give back.”
“I want to help people get better on the court and every way I can,” the sixth overall pick in the 2009 WNBA draft said.
The timing couldn’t be better for January, who is 30 years old and in her ninth year with the Fever.
“At some point you have to make decisions, because this game takes a toll on you,” January said last week.
“I still love the game getting on the court, when that leaves I know it’s time,” she said.
Then again, January still has a lot of game. On Saturday, she had 16 points and a season-high seven assists in the Fever’s 91-85 win over Dallas, and she’s up to 3.1 assists per game. However, she injured an ankle in Wednesday’s 98-90 loss to the Phoenix Mercury and did not play Friday against the Storm.
“It’s going well,” said January, an all-WNBA selection in 2014. “We’re in a transition year, so they’re a learning curve, but we’re getting there.”
Speaking of transition years, this could be the biggest in January’s career. A natural coach on the floor, she’s looking at the game differently now.
“As a point guard you have to coach anyway,” January said. “It’s about being able to look at the game at a different angle.”
Even when the season is over, January won’t necessarily need to make a permanent decision.
“I’m not worried about it at all if she wants play however many years,” Turner Thorne said. “It’s a win-win for all of us. We have coaches who can handle things while Bri is playing.”
January was the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 and 2009 and All- Pac-10 first team in 2009 when the Sun Devils reached the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight.
January is ASU’s career leader in assists and free throw percentage, second in steals and ninth in scoring, playing from 2006-09.
The Fever chose January in the first round of the 2009 WNBA draft. She has been Indiana’s starting point guard since 2011, making the WNBA All-Defensive team from 2012-14. The Fever won the WNBA title in 2012 with January averaging 11.5 points and 3.8 assists during the playoffs.
Overall as a pro, January has averaged 8.9 points and 3.6 assists. She was a WNBA All-Star in 2014 and among 25 finalists for the 2016 U.S. Olympic team.