Veterans Natalie Achonwa, Shenise Johnson and Erica Wheeler sign free agent deals
INDIANAPOLIS – On the first day of WNBA free agency in 2019, three Indiana Fever stars – Natalie Achonwa, Shenise Johnson and Erica Wheeler – have signed free agent contracts to return to the Fever.
Together, the trio totals 15 years of WNBA experience with 191 games started in 11 seasons with Indiana. Achonwa and Johnson were part-time starters on the Fever’s 2015 team that reached the WNBA Finals.
“We are thrilled to have three key veterans returning to the roster,” said third-year Fever coach and general manager Pokey Chatman. “It says a lot about their commitment to the process and their teammates, as well as to our franchise.”
Indiana, 6-28 a year ago while playing without Johnson due to left ACL rehabilitation, got half its wins in the final two weeks of the season as its youth began to mature. The Fever also hold the No. 3 overall draft selection in the WNBA Draft in April, adding to a pair of rookie first-round picks in 2018.
Beginning her eighth WNBA season, Johnson was averaging a career-high 11.3 points per game in 2017 when she went down with a torn ACL in July. The 5-11 guard missed all of the 2018 season.
“I’m so excited for Shenise to return to the court,” said Chatman. “She’s a dynamic veteran who gives us size and speed, along with the ability to space the floor and create offensively.”
Achonwa, like Johnson in 2017, had her best pro season in 2018. The 6-4 center and former Notre Dame star became just the fourth Fever player ever with six double-doubles in a season while averaging career highs of 10.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. She was the only Indiana player to start in every game last season.
“Nat had a great season for us,” added Chatman. “She’s a blue-collar, fundamentally sound, high I.Q. player that has continued to expand her game every year. She is a truly a star when it comes to the intangibles.”
Wheeler, a 5-7 point guard, was an undrafted free agent when she entered the league in 2015, and now has completed four WNBA seasons, the last three with Indiana. A staple in the Fever rotation, she is one of only six undrafted free agents in league history to eclipse 1,000 career points and 400 career assists. Her 3.7 career assists per game with Indiana are currently a franchise record.
“Erica’s growth is in line with her commitment to be a student of the game; to maintain her energy and work ethic; and to be a great teammate. I look forward to her leading the charge,” said Chatman.
She added, “Their 15 years of combined experience will be vital as we embark upon the 2019 season.”