Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Monday, May 14, 2018

WNBA Feature: Mississippi State Grad Victoria Vivians’ Rookie Debut Under Way With Indy




NEWARK, Del. – It hasn’t taken long for Indiana Fever rookie guard Victoria Vivians to find her way to one of Indianapolis’ best eating spots: A mouth-watering soul food restaurant called Country Kitchen.


“I had the fried catfish and the greens,” a smiling Vivians said prior to the Fever’s second preseason game against the Washington Mystics at the University of Delaware Saturday night. “Everything was good. Indianapolis is a great city and I am grateful to be there. I can’t wait to play there in front of the fans in an official game.”


Selected eighth overall in last month’s WNBA Draft, Vivians makes her WNBA debut along with fellow Fever rookies Kelsey Mitchell (No. 2 overall pick) and Stephanie Mavunga (14th overall selection) Saturday when Indiana hosts Chicago in a game featuring four of the top eight selections.

 The Sky feature Diamond Deshields and Gabby Williams, who were picked third and fourth, respectively, in the draft.


Indiana head coach Pokey Chatman has been pleased with her rookie triumvirate during training camp. 


“The skill set is the easiest thing to see,” Chatman said. “It’s been the character of those kids. Their willingness to get in the gym early, late and often. It’s also how much they have picked up in a short amount of time. Granted they’re still going to have some growing pains, but they come from storied programs that know how to win. Plus they loved to be coached.”


Finding food spots and navigating her way around the city has been easy. Adjusting to the WNBA, learning new teammates, terminology, and tendencies will take a little longer as Vivians continues to get comfortable in her new surroundings. She’ll be fine despite shooting a combined 2-for-13 as the Fever split a pair of preseason games by beating the Sky and losing to Mystics.


Vivians fell into the Fever’s lap after a trade that sent longtime Indiana veteran Briann January to the Phoenix Mercury in March. Her defensive tenacity, shooting prowess, and winning mentality fits beautifully with a Fever squad looking to increase its 75.1 point per game scoring average from last season, which was 11th out of 12 teams.


With liquid moves, Vivians gives Indiana size and length on the perimeter. In addition, she played in some of the biggest games and been responsible for some of the most iconic moments in the women’s game in recent years.


“The biggest adjustment for me is coming into a totally different team,” Vivians said. “It’s not like your college team that you’ve been with for four years. You see people leave and come every day so I feel like adjusting to the people and the system. Training camp for me I have been doing a lot of thinking.”


As arena workers were finishing placing red Mystics rally towels on the blue seats in the Bob Carpenter Center, Vivians was on the floor with one of her assistant coaches already dripping in pools of perspiration two hours prior to tip off against the Mystics. 


For 50 minutes, She rained jumpers from different spots on the floor, shooting free throws, running off screens and draining baskets from the elbow. 

After team warmups were done, Vivians grabbed a ball off the rack and worked on her dribbling skills, switching it in each hand and placing the ball between her legs as she took long steps from sideline to sideline.


“The defenses and offenses are different and faster,” she said. “It’s a new defense from where you came from. It’s not exactly a different defense, but you learn different terminology. I am getting the terminology down, running the plays and trying remember all the plays coach has for us.”


Showcasing her trademark smile and dancing skills during the intense and focused warmups is a necessary pregame ritual for Vivians. She also started singing parts of the national anthem when the actual game performer was practicing. It’s just part of her pleasant personality. 


“Singing warms up your voice because you get to yelling on the court,” Vivians said. “Dancing gets you warm faster than basketball because it’s a lot of movement. I feel like just taking it all in and being happy. Being happy in what I am doing makes you play better, make you look better and feel better.”


Vivians’ legendary career kept Mississippi State fans entertained and happy. 


A 6 foot, 1 inch guard, Vivians led MSU to the Final Four in consecutive years, averaging 19.8 points and 6.1 rebounds, with 69 3-point field goals as a senior. A tough perimeter defender who averaged 17.0 points over her career, she was a first-team All-American by USA Today and the Associated Press. 


Though the championship ending was bittersweet with Mississippi State falling at the end on a legendary buzzer beater against Notre Dame, Vivians can appreciate that she played in the greatest Final Four in history as well played a significant role in ending UConn’s legendary 111-game winning streak as a junior in Stark Vegas. 


“It’s amazing to be able to play in the last game of the year,” Vivians said. “Knowing that you’ve made it all the way to the championship game and there’s not a game after that so I feel like that was pretty good doing it back to back especially for our school that had never done anything like that before. It’s amazing and I am glad I was in that position to be able to play in that game.”


Since that championship game, life has been a blur for Vivians, who signed with Lil Wayne’s Young Money APAA Sports & Entertainment agency. She had to find a place to live, learn a new city, participate in commencement, and much more. She’s fine with the hustle and bustle.


“It’s been going pretty fast starting with the draft right after the season, then coming into training camp and already playing my second preseason game,” Vivians said. “The opportunity has been great. I am so grateful for the opportunity and I am taking everything in. I am just appreciating what’s happened to me.”



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