December 19, 2021
Aaliyah Wilson ready to help Fever reach Playoff goals
Young guard Aaliyah Wilson is ready to grow and help the Indiana Fever get back to the postseason
Indiana Fever General Manager Tamika Catchings made her intentions for the 2022 Fever clear in her media availability after draft lottery night, stating, “I put a lot of pressure on myself and put a lot of pressure on our team and our coaching staff that we will be in the playoffs next year. That is what we are building.”
Earlier this winter, Fever guard Danielle Robinson echoed a similar sentiment, saying that the team is a few pieces away from being ready to go on a deeper run. The messaging from the team is clear — it’s time to take a step forward.
A large part of Indiana’s improvement will come internally. Many of their players from last season need to take a skill-based leap if the group is going to be a playoff contender. And one younger member of the squad, Aaliyah Wilson, understands her role in pushing the team toward the postseason next year.
“I definitely plan on being in the playoffs this coming up year,” Wilson said in a sit down with The Next. “When we left at the end of the season, everybody had a clear-eyed view of what it is we could do and where we could be. So I definitely see this us being in the conference playoffs and competing.”
Wilson could be a key part of any growth in Indiana next season. In 14 games during her rookie season, the guard showed off some valuable skills, including a useful ability to create her shot on offense and a nose for the ball on defense.
But she also had some limitations. Despite wiggling free from her matchup often, Wilson struggled to knock down shots in her first campaign, one in which she shot just 23.1% from the floor. Her turnover rate and occasional over-aggression made life harder on her Fever teammates. Some of Wilson’s errors can be chalked up to typical rookie miscues, though, as she adjusts to the speed of the pro game. Her feel could take her farther in year two.
To iron out some of the kinks in her game, Wilson has spent some of this WNBA offseason working out at her alma mater, Texas A&M University, located in College Station, Texas. Much of what Fever brass told her to work on relates to reading the game and keeping up with the other team’s strategy. But it extended to individual skills, too.
“Breaking down those certain pick-and-rolls, and reading those reads, and knowing my bigs, and knowing those backside helps and really studying the game as far as film goes,” Wilson mentioned of skills she is looking to improve. “And especially on the court with breaking that down, those pick-and-rolls or those transition reads or just knowing those post speeds. Stuff like that.”
Those skills, if they translate to the court next year, will help the Fever in a playoff quest. The Fever talked often about their offensive timing last season, both as something they were working on frequently and something that plagued them in losses. Wilson having a better feel for the game could push the team forward in that area. And a heightened ability to read a rotating defense will be a boon for a unit that finished third-to-last in turnover rate last season.
Growth in those areas, plus keeping up with the intricacies of the pro game, will make Wilson a much better sophomore than a freshman in the WNBA. “Recapping this past year, knowing that the league is full of vets and knowing how quick everything is, you get the upper hand when you know the court, you know the game, you know the read,” Aaliyah Wilson detailed of her conversations after the season with Fever coaches and executives. Reading the game more effectively is a natural growth point for young players in the league, and Wilson is no exception. She needs to evolve in this area after having more turnovers than assists as a rookie.
Another trait that Wilson wants to improve is one that several Indiana Fever players have echoed as an area for growth this offseason — consistency. Robinson and Chelsey Perry both told The Next in recent months that the Fever can be more consistent, citing a strong stretch of play in July and August that Indiana failed to carry over the rest of the season.
Wilson sees something similar. She noted that the Fever definitely lost some momentum when the Olympic break hit the league last season. And then injuries derailed the team’s success in late August. But either way, the red and blue scarcely looked like the same team for extended stretches last season — for numerous reasons — and Wilson and company think it’s important that they figure out how to be more steady.
How exactly do the Fever become dependable on a day-by-day basis? “I think it’s just that focus,” Wilson explained. It can be hard to aim attention to the details every day throughout a long, challenging season. But another aspect of being more consistent, Wilson expressed, is figuring out how to play better with your teammates. Another year with a similar core should help the Fever in that department. And several members of the team have been communicating repeatedly this offseason.
“Those personal interactions… reaching out to each other, text messages, slide on each other’s Snapchat, you know, seeing experiences they’re having… that’s pretty cool,” Wilson said. Robinson has been a leader for the Fever this winter and has liaised with the team time and time again — Wilson enjoying those moments is another example of Robinson’s leadership making the team better.
Those intangibles Robinson has will trickle down to the rest of the Indiana roster in due time. And Wilson will be one of the beneficiaries once that happens. The 23-year old showed off some impressive on-court skills during her rookie year. But inconsistent play and a lack of experience often caught up with her. The Fever will be better thanks to Wilson putting in the time to develop those traits this offseason. And if those talents stick and help the team from the Circle City on the court this season, Wilson’s improvement could be a key piece in getting Indiana back to the postseason.