April 13, 2018 10:01:15 AM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
The nerve-wracking time has ended.
It's time for Victoria Vivians to focus on her professional basketball career.
The Indiana Fever made it official Thursday night when they selected the Mississippi State senior with the No. 8 pick in the first round of the WNBA draft.
"It feels great. The wait is finally over," Vivians said Thursday night. "I have been trying to figure out what is going to happen for two weeks, so I am glad it is over."
Vivians, Ohio State guard Kelsey Mitchell (first round, No. 2 overall), and OSU forward Stephanie Mavunga (second round, No. 14) joined the Fever, who are coached by former LSU coach "Pokey" Chatman.
Vivians is the fourth MSU player drafted in the opening round, and the first since Chanel Mokango was selected ninth overall in 2010. Tan White was taken second overall in 2005, two years after LaToya Thomas became the first Mississippian taken with the No. 1 overall pick.
Vivians said she tried not to think about all of the possibilities and where she could have gone in the draft. She said she tried to get into the gym, concentrate on her school work and talk to her agent to chart a course for her future.
She arrived in New York on Tuesday to take part in the festivities leading up to the draft. She said New York City was "nice" but that it was "a little too much for me." She said she managed to get some shopping in while she was there with her father, her step-mother, MSU coach Vic Schaefer and his wife, Holly, and MSU associate head coach Johnnie Harris.
Schaefer said he is excited Vivians is going to Indiana because Chatman knows how tough it is for players in the Southeastern Conference.
"It is a culmination of so much hard work and commitment throughout her lifetime," Schaefer said. "It started when she played basketball on the dirt with her cousins to her days at Scott Central with coach (Chad) Harrison to choosing to come to Mississippi State when that might not have been the fashionable thing to do."
A season of improvement
Vivians, a 6-foot-1 guard/forward from Carthage, helped make MSU a fashionable destination by leading the program to the NCAA Tournament the last four seasons. She is part of a senior class with Blair Schaefer and Morgan William that accomplished that feat for the first time.
This season, Vivians recorded one of the best seasons in MSU history by averaging 19.8 points per game and scoring 773 points, which was the second-highest total in program history. She posted career-best shooting numbers -- 48.5 percent from the field, 40.4 percent from 3-point range, and 80.9 percent from the free-throw line -- in a four-guard offense that often paired her against four players, or power forwards. Those matchups enabled Vivians to showcase her improved ballhandling skills to get to the basket. As a result, Vivians scored in double figures 38 times and had 20-plus points in 20 games to become the first Bulldog since Thomas in 2003 to earn first-team All-America honors from The Associated Press.
Vivians also averaged a career-best 6.1 rebounds per game to help lead MSU to a 37-2 finish and a second-straight appearance in the national title game.
"Obviously we saw tremendous growth in her this year," Schaefer said. "Most people don't have that. Usually the best improvement is from a player's freshman and sophomore years. The fact that Victoria made such tremendous improvement between her junior and senior year is attributed to the fact that I think she had a lighter class load, she was able to focus more and be in the gym more. Now that she has no class load, she will be able to work on her game and continue to get better."
Schaefer feels Vivians' best basketball is ahead of her because she will continue to improve and mature. He also feels she will be a great teammate and build the chemistry at Indiana.
Chatman, who also is the Fever's general manager, said it was Indiana's goal to get Mitchell, Vivians, and Mavunga. It just so happened that all of the right players were there when it came time for the Fever to pick.
"We thought there was a 30- to 40-percent chance she would not be there," Chatman said of Vivians at No. 8. "I told them (God) covered us with some love tonight because we got everyone we wanted."
'Take me at No. 2'
Chatman agrees with coach Schaefer in that Vivians' best basketball is ahead of her. She said she feels Vivians adds depth to the roster in that she can play both forward positions, even if she doesn't play as much four, or power forward, in the WNBA as she did this past season at MSU.
"It is easy to look at her game and the way she shoots the three," Chatman said. "But when you get to our level and you have a 12-man roster, it is important to have a player who can impact the game on both sides of the ball."
Chatman said she is eager to work with Vivians because she saw her accept coaching in her career at MSU and improve. She said she said Vivians' ballhandling improve and be able to diversify her ways to attack the basket. She said she also loves Vivians' confidence. She had a sense of that during a telephone interview when at the end Vivians said to Chatman, "Take me at No. 2."
Vivians didn't go that high, but she is ready to take the next step and make as big a mark in the WNBA as she did at MSU.
"I know what I have to do," said Vivians, who said she planned to talk to Chatman later Thursday to find out when she reports to training camp. "I have to go up there and grind and fight for a position. It is me going in and doing what I have to do and no nerves at all.
"It went by pretty fast," she noted of her time with the Bulldogs. "When I was playing, it seemed like the longest four years of my life, but thinking back now it really has gone by fast. I am going to miss everybody and all of my great teammates. It is time for me to grow and to go on to bigger things."
MSU seniors Roshunda Johnson, Blair Schaefer, and Morgan William also were eligible for the draft but weren't selected.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.