WNBA: Former Maryland Star Marissa Coleman Gains Confidence From Indiana Coach
WASHINGTON -- Marissa Coleman is home in the heartland.
It’s taken some time, tears and toughness, but Coleman has found a comfort zone that has the veteran Indiana Fever guard among the elite players in the league, a place she always believed she belonged. Her recent selection to the WNBA All-Star presented by Boost Mobile confirmed that status.
“From day one when I signed here, the conversations coach (Stephanie White) and I shared instilled immediate confidence in me,” Coleman said last week before the Fever defeated the Mystics, 73-62 at the Verizon Center.
“She told me that you can be an All-Star in this league. I have confidence and we have confidence in you. That goes a long way. Being selected to the All-Star team meant a lot to me. Now, finally being removed from everything and being able to put it in perspective, it meant more to me than any individual award and honor I’ve ever received.”
Coleman’s swagger is soaring as the Fever are making a strong playoff push, having won 11 of their last 14 games heading into Tuesday’s contest in Los Angeles. They are tied in the congested Eastern Conference standings with Washington for second place, two games behind New York. Both the Fever and Mystics have identical 14-9 records.
A native of Germantown (Md.), who helped Maryland win a national championship in 2006, Coleman was drafted second overall in 2009 by her hometown team, the Washington Mystics. On paper it was a match made in heaven. She was going to lead the Mystics to WNBA glory.
Unfortunately, Coleman never found her groove in D.C. despite scoring 16 points in her WNBA debut. She was traded to Los Angeles in 2011 where she was a role player and enjoyed a few memorable moments.
“I am a firm believer in everything happens for a reason and those years in D.C. and Los Angeles where I struggled were leading to this point,” Coleman said. “They taught me a lot about myself, persevering, hard work and sticking with things.
As she spoke about her journey from first-round draft pick to All-Star, Coleman was relaxed as she sat on the courtside black leather chairs.
“It’s been such a roller-coaster ride in this league for me,” Coleman said. “If you would’ve asked me on draft day 2009, I would’ve been an all-star multiple times by now. There was some extreme frustration with myself and tears after games. To finally make an all-star in my seventh year is probably most special to me.”
Despite those tough moments, Coleman never stopped believing.
She continued improving waiting for her opportunity to torture opposing defenses. She was used more as a spot-up shooter in Los Angeles, but in Indiana, Coleman is showcasing all facets of her beautiful game: The deadly jumper, explosive drives to the basket and tenacious rebounding.
“It was more disappointment and frustration than anything for me,” Coleman said. “That was the most upsetting thing for me knowing that I was capable of playing at a high level and I wasn’t reaching those personal expectations.
"Forget the expectations that everybody else had for myself. I always have higher expectations for myself than anybody can put on me. That was most disappointing knowing I was capable of so much more and I wasn’t showing that.”
All it took was the right fit and perfect coach. Now, Coleman is shining this season for the Fever. The durable Coleman is a versatile combo guard who can score, defend, push tempo and shoot the 3-pointer. She has bolstered the Indiana backcourt with size, strength, versatility and timely shooting.
After setting a new career-high with 9.1 points per game during the 2014 season, Coleman has been better this year, scoring in double figures in 15 of Indiana’s 23 games, including a career-high 25 points in the win over San Antonio. She ranks 20th in the WNBA in scoring (12.8 ppg) and 11th in three-point percentage, shooting 37.8 percent from deep.
“I knew I was going to have the chance to get to where I finally wanted to be in my career with the confidence that everybody in the organization had in me,” Coleman said. “I had a solid year last year. Coming into the season, I knew that coach White had high expectations for me and was going to let me go out play my game and have fun.
“I don’t think people realize that being surrounded in a situation where people have confidence in you how much that does for your game. You can just go out there and have fun and not worry about making mistakes, missing shots because you know matter what from top to bottom the people around you have your back and that does a lot for a player in any sport.”
Indiana’s season has mirrored Coleman’s career. A slow start losing its first three games and dropping four of its first five games before turning things around. Coleman is now a key part of the Fever’s relentless attack. Indiana has a steely toughness that has served it well this season.
The Fever has endured all types of travel inconveniences this season such as being stuck on a tarmac in a hot plane for almost two hours where players took off shirts in an effort to stay cool.
They were stranded in the Reagan National Airport for five hours. The latter forced a rare postponement of a game when the Fever couldn’t catch an alternative flight that would have gotten them to Connecticut in time for that night’s game.
“The travel has been horrendous,” Coleman said with a laugh. “It’s been tough and we talk about it amongst ourselves, but this group has handled it so well. Some teams would complain and we just made the best of delayed flights. Being stuck at the airport just gave us a chance to enjoy each other’s company.”
That closeness shows on the court as well. While Tamika Catchings is the undisputed leader of the Fever, everybody has made contributions during their recent hot stretch.
Briann January is one of the best defenders in the WNBA.
During their win over Phoenix on Sunday, Lynetta Kizer, another Terrapin standout, scored a career-high 19 points. Demonstrating their toughness, the Fever defeated the reigning champions on the road despite missing both centers and having starting guard Shenise Johnson receive four stitches.
Coleman and the Fever are pumped for the stretch run.
“It’s going to be tough,” Coleman said. “It makes for a fun rest of second half. We’re going to grind it out and see how the standings shake out at the end of the regular season. We’re just trying to be consistent and play together as a team. Then we’ll see what happens during the playoffs.”
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