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Thursday, July 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  National sports

Former Lewis and Clark standout Briann January heats up career with Phoenix Mercury

UPDATED: Thu., June 14, 2018, 6:55 p.m.

After serving last season as an assistant coach at her alma mater, Arizona State, Spokane native Briann January remained in Phoenix to play for the WNBA’s Mercury. (Associated Press)
After serving last season as an assistant coach at her alma mater, Arizona State, Spokane native Briann January remained in Phoenix to play for the WNBA’s Mercury. (Associated Press)
By Stephen Hunt For The Spokesman-Review

ARLINGTON, Texas – This year has been atypical for Briann January, but that’s been a big positive for the Lewis and Clark product.

After serving last season as an assistant coach at her alma mater, Arizona State, the 31-year-old January remained in Phoenix after the WNBA’s Mercury acquired her in a March trade with Indiana.

“It’s been awesome,” January said prior to a recent Mercury game in Dallas. “It feels good to be back. It’s been a nice transition for me coaching at Arizona State, and now being able to stay in a single place year around. I haven’t been able to do that since I was back in college.”

LCs Briann January looks to the basket for her shot just before getting fouled at the end of the game. She made the free throw to swecure the 41-40 win and fifth place for LC. Christopher Anderson/the Spokesman-Review (Christopher Anderson / The Spokesman-Review)
LCs Briann January looks to the basket for her shot just before getting fouled at the end of the game. She made the free throw to swecure the 41-40 win and fifth place for LC. Christopher Anderson/the Spokesman-Review (Christopher Anderson / The Spokesman-Review)

Were this a normal offseason, January would have taken her game overseas. In past years, she’s played in Brazil, Israel and Turkey, unique experiences she wouldn’t trade for anything.

“Turkey would probably be my favorite. I enjoyed Israel and Brazil and I really haven’t played in a place I disliked, so I’ve been lucky in that regard,” January said. “I love Turkey. I’ve spent a majority of my time (overseas) there.”

Coaching has always intrigued January, so when her former coach at ASU, Charli Turner Thorne, approached her prior to last season about joining her staff, she knew that would be a great avenue to determine if she wants to coach once she stops playing.

“It was perfect timing just to let my body get a rest. After this season, I know for sure this is what I want to do,” January said. “I’ve had some phenomenal coaches. They impacted my life and they got me here. To be able to give back to some young women and to help them achieve whatever their goal is, whether that’s on the court or off the court, that’s what I want to do.”

Phoenix already had a veteran-laden roster prior to acquiring January this spring, but Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello, who led Phoenix to the 2014 WNBA title and earned league coach of the year honors, is happy to add Briann to the mix.

“(She brings) a lot of things – toughness number one,” Brondello said. “She’s just a tough competitor. She’s brought us defense. She’s our defensive specialist on whoever their best perimeter player is. She’s brought 3-point shooting, she’s brought great energy. She’s just a winner. We’re very excited to have her.”

Phoenix is the latest stop in a basketball odyssey which has taken January around the world and back, something she never forgets nor takes for granted. Coaching is just one way she can give back to the game which has given her so much.

“I owe this game everything,” January said. “I’ve been able to travel the world. I’ve been able to go to the White House, meet the president. I’ve been able to impact the youth. I’ve been able to be in the community. I wouldn’t be able to do that without this game. I’m just so thankful that I found this game and it’s allowed me to play this long. Hopefully, I have a few more years in me to keep going.”

Something else never far from January’s mind is what an integral role her Spokane roots have played in helping her achieve so much in basketball, roots for which she remains grateful.

“I love Spokane and I’m glad my parents are still out there, because I get to go back and visit. It’s everything to me,” she said.

“I was super blessed with the amazing people that were placed in my life while I was in Spokane, whether that was my elementary school teachers or my coaches. Jim Redmond and I, my high school coach, we still keep up to this day. We check in often. I’ve just been super lucky with the amazing people I’ve met while I was in Spokane, and I’m super proud to be from up that area.”

Seattle Storm's Jordin Canada, right, defends Phoenix Mercury's Briann January in the second half of a WNBA basketball game Sunday, May 20, 2018, in Seattle. The Mercury won 87-82. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)
Seattle Storm's Jordin Canada, right, defends Phoenix Mercury's Briann January in the second half of a WNBA basketball game Sunday, May 20, 2018, in Seattle. The Mercury won 87-82. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

Stephen Hunt is a freelance writer based in Frisco, Texas.

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