Marissa Coleman has bounced around during her seven-year WNBA career, moving from Washington to Los Angeles to Indiana since she was drafted out of Maryland in 2009.
And in Indiana, she has finally found her "happy place."
"I'm having fun again," Coleman said. "It's been a long, long time since I've been this comfortable and had this much fun playing basketball."
Coleman signed with the Fever as a free agent before the 2014 season. Coleman said she spent a lot of time at her previous WNBA stops trying to fit the needs of her team, but didn't feel she got to capitalize on all of her strengths and lost a little of her own game -- and some confidence -- in the process.
"Early on, I didn't feel like I could show my versatility, and gradually it ate at my confidence," Coleman said. "But I've been able to get back to a lot of the things that I'm good at. There were things I hadn't focused on in a long time, but I'm improving my ballhandling and coming off screens. The team I played for in Turkey this year needed me to score in order to win, and that has helped me become more aggressive. It's definitely translated to my game."
Coleman is coming off a career-best 25 points against San Antonio last week. Her 13.1 points per game are tied with Tamika Catchings for the team lead. It's also Coleman's career high in points per game, and nearly doubles her career average. Last season, she averaged 8.9 points.
"We thought she had the potential to be this type of player," Indiana coach Stephanie White said.
Coleman's scoring is pushing the Indiana offense forward in a decisive way. The Fever have put up at least 50 points in a half four times this season through 14 games. Last season, it happened three times all season.
Coleman was drafted by Washington after an All-American career at Maryland that included a national championship in 2006. She became a starter in her third season with the Mystics, when she averaged 8.6 points and 4.8 rebounds a game.
But Coleman was traded to Los Angeles before the 2012 season and never found her groove. Despite the reunion with former Maryland teammate Kristi Toliver, Coleman came off the bench most of the time for the Sparks, averaging 3.9 points per game in two seasons before she was signed by the Fever.
"It's been a long, long time since I've been this comfortable and had this much fun playing basketball."Marissa Coleman
When Coleman arrived in Indiana last year, she said she felt like "the new girl."
"I needed time to feel things out and find my place," she said.
White said the coaching staff was clear with Coleman about what they thought she could contribute, and what she had to do to get there.
"As a young player in the league, she's been in a lot of different roles," White said. "Last year was her transition year, learning our system. But I challenged Marissa to work on her ballhandling and her mindset and knowing she could be a go-to player for us. I also wanted her to work on her defensive focus and her intensity.
"She came back a different player. And it's been very evident from our first game."
Coleman feels the confidence that White has in her.
"They want me to go out there and play my game and have fun again," Coleman said, "and I don't have to worry about how I fit in."
"I challenged Marissa to work on her ballhandling and her mindset and knowing she could be a go-to player for us. ... She came back a different player. And it's been very evident from our first game."Fever coach Stephanie White on Marissa Coleman
White sees Coleman as a versatile player in the mold of Catchings: a player who can handle the ball, post up and play defense.
"We are trying to utilize her versatility," White said. "She and Catch can be pretty interchangeable. We can move them both around and take advantage of their skill sets."
From Coleman's first conversation last season with former Fever coach Lin Dunn, who has since retired, Coleman said she "felt wanted" in Indiana.
"She told me I was going to have the opportunity to have a big part in what they want to do," Coleman said. "In that way, it was a no-brainer for me to come here."
This summer, the Fever got off to a rough start, losing three straight to open the season as they transitioned to a new coach and weathered injuries to Catchings, Erlana Larkins and Shavonte Zellous.
But Indiana has won five in a row and seven of its last 10.
"It was definitely a rough start," Coleman said. "It was hard to get a feel for each other. But getting everybody back healthy, now we are playing really well."