Mississippi State standout Teaira McCowan came to the Indiana Fever this year with a pro pedigree. The 6-7 center was her school’s career double-doubles leader when she graduated, and was the SEC’s top rebounder and field goal percentage shooter in her last season. She and teammate Victoria Vivians led the Bulldogs to two straight NCAA National Championship games.
The Fever drafted McCowan, a Brenham, Texas native, with their third pick, a year after they drafted Vivians, who had to sit out this season with an ACL injury.
McCowan is averaging 9.1 points and 8.7 rebounds per game this season, and has had seven double-doubles. She has scored 24 points twice this past week, put up 22 between those match ups, and she followed up a career-high 19-rebound performance with a 17-rebound outing last night.
How has your game adjusted at the pro level, and what have you learned so far?
I feel like I’ve adjusted well, and these last couple of games I’ve really been getting out of my own head. It’s hard as a rookie not to overthink and not to try to mess up, because then it’s like, I’m thinking I’m not messing up but I’m still messing up. So at one point I was just like, “just go out there and play.” So that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been trying to do whatever my team needs me to do, if they need me to score inside I will, or if they need me to help on defense. It’s kind of what I did at State, but just at the highest level. I feel like I’m doing pretty good.
How does the game work differently on this level? How have you been able to translate your knowledge and learn new things?
It’s basically just learning the terms. I mean, everybody runs the same stuff, but you have to know the different schemes of what you want to do to certain teams. In college it’s like, you play defense and you have a set scheme of what you want to do, and you just keep them in front, run them off the line and that’s it. Here you run them off the line and they kick it to the next person and that person is always good. There’s not a person who’s not good in the league. The next person’s going to make the shot; anybody can make any shot from anywhere on the floor. So you just have to try and play at a high level for as long as you can.
How do you think Mississippi State prepared you for where you are right now?
I would say mentally it prepared me that I haven’t had a rough time in thinking “I can’t do this, I can’t do that.” Because if you can get through Vic Schaefer’s workouts, you can get through anything.
Have any of your teammates been particularly helpful to you as you make your transition to the pros?
I would say everyone. Nat (Natalie Achonwa) is the mom of the team and she makes sure everyone is set in stone, like, “you know what you’re doing, you know what you have to do.” As well as like on the floor, it’s a common effect. You don’t wonder what you’re doing; she’s going to talk you through it, even when she’s playing defense on her man, she’s going to tell you where to go. So it’s like having a few point guards on the floor.
You have some great people around you in this franchise.
Candice (Dupree) is another one who always keeps me pumped. She’s always telling me “It’s OK, you got it.”
What’s Indianapolis like for you? Have you found any hangouts? I know Tamika Catchings has a tea shop.
Yeah I went there once – we had a little lunch date with the rookies and the players who came in last year. But Indy is way different from Brenham. It’s small – as small as this arena. So there’s nothing to do. People say in Indy there’s not much to do, but in my eyes, even walking down the sidewalk and just looking at different sceneries, that’s enough for me. I don’t need much. I’m cool.
You had one nightmare travel day, but overall, how is traveling much different from college?
Yeah, it’s way different. At State we took our private plane, got there the night before, and it was just us – no security. So you just packed your bag and got on the plane, flew directly there and got off.
Now you’re fitting your long legs into a coach seat.
It was a bit of a shock at first, because I thought coming from college it would be a step higher, but, yeah.
What are your keys to improving your game right now?
Most definitely just finishing and working on my confidence. So if I can just keep getting better each and every game, and I have. My teammates are playing to me and through me. So they’re learning how to play with me, and I’m learning how to play with them.
Is Victoria still around even though she’s not injured?
Well, she can’t travel, but.
So you’re looking forward to reuniting with her on the court next season?
Yeah, I tell her every day that I’m ready for her to get back on the court so we can have the duo again.
If you had any free time, what would you do?
I really just like to relax. I mean, you have so much free time. In college it’s like you have practice, then you have something and something after that. This year I just took it as, relax.
This is your first fall not being in school ever, right?
Yes, and this is technically my first break since 2015.
So I’m like, all I got to do is practice and play? Alright.