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As career winds down, January seeks one last title run close to home

NBAE via Getty Images photo.
NBAE via Getty Images photo.

After playing a career-high 30 minutes a night in 2021, Briann January was ready for a different role coming into this season. So she began exploring her options on other teams.

What she found was that the best fit into a new franchise would also bring her close to home.

When the defensive stalwart decided to play her 14th and final WNBA season in Seattle after a two-year stint with Connecticut, it marked a return to the Evergreen State, where she was born and raised. Unsurprisingly, her parents were thrilled.

“They flipped out when they heard the news,” January said.

Playing every night in front of family, friends, and former teammates is an experience the 35-year-old likens to her high school days at Lewis and Clark High School in her hometown of Spokane.

“It just fills my heart every night we step out here,” she said.

But a homecoming wasn’t the sole draw for January. The Storm also provided the chance to join a contender, with the core “Big Three” of Jewell Loyd, Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart returning for one final shot at a title before Bird’s own retirement at season’s end.

“We have a team full of veterans and everybody willing to do whatever it takes to win here,” January said. “ We’re figuring it out, but I think we have the pieces, and I’m here to do whatever I can to help.”

For the longtime point guard, who won a WNBA Championship with the Indiana Fever in 2012, that’s meant primarily coming off the bench for the first time in over a decade, and playing a career-low 17 minutes a night – a far cry from last season with the Sun.

That’s a role she has no qualms with.

“I know my body,” she said. I know what I can bring.”

Seattle head coach Noelle Quinn acknowledged the challenges that can come with learning a new system like January has, but had high praise for her continued defensive prowess.

“When she’s in the game, I think she anchors us in a lot of ways, and that starts with her on-ball presence, and her communication, and her ability to get into bodies and be physical,” Quinn said.

NBAE via Getty Images photo.

With the season winding down, January has also had the chance to return to her former haunts in Indiana, Connecticut, and Phoenix, receiving warm receptions from the crowd in each. That included a ceremony during a Fever game in May that recognized the 10-year anniversary of that team’s lone title, with a chance break in the Storm schedule allowing her to take part.

“I just have been so blessed to have great people in my life that have prepared me for being able to play this game I love and do it for a very long time, so it was great going back and getting recognized, and just, feeling the love,” January said, “I love those places so much – they’ll forever be in my heart.”

As for now, her focus is on the postseason. As Seattle jockeys for seeding, January knows there’s still plenty of room for growth as she seeks her fourth finals appearance and second championship ring.

“We’re not even close to reaching our peak with this team, and that’s a good thing,” she said. “We want to reach our peak at the end.”

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