Teaira McCowan

Indiana Fever rookie center Teaira McCowan is fourth in the WNBA with 13 blocked shots in eight games despite playing limited minutes as a reserve.

ARLINGTON, Texas Last Thursday, rookie center Teaira McCowan had a solid night of work for the WNBA’s Indiana Fever – six rebounds (four offensive), two points and a blocked shot in 15-plus minutes off the bench.

But once the Fever had defeated the Dallas Wings, 76-72 at College Park Center, she had other business. McCowan took time for photos and a conversation with two Mississippi State fans sitting courtside who had driven from the Magnolia State to see her play in person.

“My time at State has most definitely built me into the person I am today. From freshman year, not knowing if I was going to make it to my last year where I just really came alive,” McCowan, 22, said before the game. “We went to back-to-back Final Fours ... Just looking back on that, I just feel like it’s really prepared me to go and play against who I’m up against now.”

The third overall draft pick in April’s draft, the 6-foot-7 McCowan is averaging 4.0 points and 4.6 rebounds off the bench for the Fever (4-4) as she adjusts to the pro game.

With the Fever, she’s teammates again with Victoria Vivians, who is out for the season after sustaining a knee injury while playing abroad. While rehabbing, Vivians remains around the team and has proved a great mentor for her fellow Bulldog.

“I knew that she was going to clue me in on everything she learned from her rookie year,” McCowan said. “With her being out, she’s still been a great mentor to me. She always tells me ‘Go back to the old T.’ She says I’m too nice. So, I guess I have to go back to the old T. I guess I’ll listen to her.”

In her WNBA debut May 24 at New York, McCowan scored a buzzer-beating layup in an 81-80 win over the Liberty. She’s come off the bench in her first seven games and Fever head coach Pokey Chatman, who played and coached at LSU, sees plenty to like in her top draft pick thus far.

“Yeah, I’m seeing a lot of things that are positive that she probably can’t see yet, so we’re trying to remind her,” Chatman said. “She doesn’t quite understand how much she’s impacted the game for us just with her protection around the paint and the number of players that don’t seem to challenge her at the rim.

“She alters some shots. Her attitude’s great. Her mindset’s good. Her teammates truly understand how she can impact us so they’re helpful as well.”

Stephen Hunt is a freelance writer based in Frisco, Texas.

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