Storm

Briann January’s Journey: Farewell To Seattle’s Hometown Hero

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For the Seattle Storm, Sue Bird isn’t the only legend calling it quits at the end of the season. Though Bird has been with Seattle for several decades, she is not Washington homegrown. Another point guard for the Storm retiring after the season is Briann January, who hopes to cap off her career with another championship. For her final season, the Spokane native returns home after stops in Indiana, Phoenix, and Connecticut. The journey to January’s farewell begins in the desert as a Sun Devil.

January Starts In The Desert

January played at Arizona State University from 2005-2009. During her college career, she had a 108-32 record which set the tone for her WNBA career. In her freshman year, she averaged 4.8 points, 2.7 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. She finished with 86 total assists, which is the second-highest total ever for a Sun Devil freshman.

While her freshman year was just the start of her collegiate career, January’s sophomore campaign is where she blossomed into the defensive point guard we all know her as. That season she averaged 10.2 points 4.0 assists, and 2.1 steals per game. Her 2.1 steals was the third best in the Pac-10 and her assists were good enough for fourth.

January’s senior season was record-setting for ASU. Her 12.3 points and 4.8 assists per game were both career highs, and she the school’s single-season record with 65 made three-point field goals. She also tied the single-game record for most three-pointers made against UC Davis with seven.

January was the only Sun Devil to lead her team in steals and assists in all four seasons. She would join fellow Sports Illustrated cover athlete, James Harden, in having her jersey retired, and entering the pros after college. She established herself as a defensive point guard for the pro teams to evaluate when she declared for the 2009 WNBA draft.

Indiana Selects Briann January

The Indiana Fever selected January with the number one overall pick in the 2009 WNBA draft. In her rookie season, she averaged 6.9 points and 2.3 assists and 1.1 steals per game. She helped Indiana reach the Finals but they fell to the Phoenix Mercury in five games.

January spent nine seasons with the Fever and her best year with them was in 2012. She averaged a career-high 10.3 points, 1.2 steals, and 3.7 assists per game. Fever fans will remember this season for January because of how they finished. They won their only championship beating the Minnesota Lynx in a 3-1 series victory.

The Fever made the finals again for the third time in their history, but they lost to the Lynx in five games in 2015. However, it is because of the 2012 championship that Indiana holds January in such high esteem.

After nine years with the team that drafted her, she returned to the Valley to battle for another championship.

January Journey’s Back To The Desert

After spending the majority of her career with Indiana, January was traded to the Phoenix Mercury. Coming off a previously torn meniscus, she started all 33 possible games averaging 7.0 points, 3.3 assists, and 0.6 steals per game. Although her stats declined during her time with the Mercury, she gained GM Jim Pitman’s respect.

He called her “a difference-maker in our league.” and “an All-Star-caliber point guard.” He also complimented her ability to defend the best-scoring guards and wings in the league. January and the Mercury finished in the Western Conference Finals in 2018 losing to Seattle. In 2019 she averaged 6.5 points, 3.3 assists, and 0.8 steals per game in 32 games, starting in 26 of them. Having spent two seasons in the desert, January was traded to Connecticut to compete once again for a championship.

After a three-team trade with Phoenix and Atlanta, January played in 2020 with Connecticut. The Sun Coach and GM Curt Miller said that January is “a veteran leader, WNBA Champion, WNBA All-Star, premiere defensive stopper, and an elite three-point shooter”. In a shortened season, January played 13 games and started in 10 of them. She averaged 5.0 points, 3.4 assists, and 0.6 steals per game in 23.3 minutes per game. January fell short of a title again as the Sun lost to the Las Vegas Aces in the semifinals.

In the 2021 season January started all 29 games she played in. She averaged a career-high 7.0 points, 3.1 assists, and 0.9 steals per game. The Sun was eliminated in the 2021 semi-finals again to the Chicago Sky due to January’s absence in the elimination game. She left Connecticut without a championship, but with a decorated resume, she came home for her farewell season.

January’s Thunderous Welcome Home

After a decorated career playing 13 seasons in the WNBA, January announced she will return to her home state for her 14th and final year in the league. Her accolades include being an all-star in 2014, and a champion in 2012. She has been to the finals two other times (2009, and 2015) and is a 2022 EuroLeague champion as well. She was named to six WNBA All-Defensive teams as well.

In Seattle’s most recent win, she also passed Dawn Staley for 15th in all-time assists with 1,338 and she’s tied with Teresa Weatherspoon for 14th. In recognition of her impact at Arizona State University, her number 20 jersey hangs in the rafters at Desert Financial Arena.

This season January is averaging 3.6 points, 2.4 assists, and 0.7 steals per game in her final season while backing up Bird. In the same way that Bird wants to finish her career on top by winning a championship, January desires the same thing. Nevertheless, she does not let that detract from what the game has given her.

When asked “what has the game of basketball given you?”, January simply answers “everything” and also emotionally thanks “her people” for attending their win against Minnesota. After growing up in the state of Washington, she gets an opportunity to bring the Seattle Storm their fifth championship.

January is a key piece coming off the bench for a defensive-focused second unit. During her 14-year career, she proves herself to be a tough competitor and one of the best defensive point guards ever. Her defense and toughness are very important for the Storm’s playoff run to win a championship in her final season.

About Brenden Potts

Brenden is an American writer and Washington State University Sport Management student in Pullman Washington. He has less than a year of writing experience getting started with The Lead. He writes about the Seattle Storm for The Lead.

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