August 10, 2020 

Natalie Achonwa breaks all-time Indiana Fever Natalie rebounding record

Achonwa discusses her latest Natalie record

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Indiana Fever forward Natalie Achonwa (11) shoots during the WNBA game between the Indiana Fever and the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA on May 28, 2019. Photo Credit: Chris Poss

On July 31, Natalie Achonwa passed Natalie Williams for fifth-most rebounds in Indiana Fever history, with 678 career rebounds.

But the real landmark event is this: Achonwa passed Williams for first place in Fever history among Natalies. Last season Achonwa passed Williams for most points by a Natalie with the Fever. 

As a Natalie myself, I decided to look into this bit of nomenclature-based basketball history.

“I’m honored, I’m truly honored to be listed amongst some of the greats that have played in Indiana,” Achonwa told The Next. 

Even so, there’s plenty of Natalie history to go.

While Achonwa is the all-time leader of Natalies with the Fever, she still needs 1,717 points and 1,154 rebounds to pass Williams and become the league’s all-time leader among Natalies, since Natalie Williams also played four seasons with the Utah Starzz.

“It’d be really cool if I did end up passing Williams for all time and holding that record for Natalie rebounds,” Achonwa told The Next. 

Greatness cannot be measured in stats alone, however. It is, in part, from the esteem of your peers, your coaches.

And in this way, Achonwa has already fulfilled that promise on behalf of her name, my name, the best name. Head coach of the Indiana Fever Marianne Stanley said that Achonwa was the finest Natalie she’s ever coached. 

“Nat definitely has made her mark and to put her in the same sentence as Natalie Williams, who as you know was an Olympian and all time great player at UCLA and one of the best rebounders, not only in college basketball but in the WNBA, that’s saying something. And it gives you an appreciation of all that Natalie Achonwa brings to the table,” Stanley said. 

This is not to say that achieving Natalie greatness was easy. While there have not been two Natalies on active rosters in the league, Achonwa and Natalie Novosel caused some confusion while at Notre Dame. 

While at Notre Dame, the younger Achonwa needed a nickname so the team could distinguish between the two Natalies. After the team put it to a Facebook poll, Achonwa got the nickname Ace. 

The nickname proved to be important because before it was fully developed, it caused some confusion at practice. Achonwa recalled one story in particular that illustrates how the Natalie basketball boom led to unintended consequences for, really, all of us.

“We were doing a defensive drill, and I’m going to say it was Natalie Novosel that messed up, I honestly don’t remember, but one of us made a mistake, and she [head coach Muffet McGraw] said ‘Natalie get off the court’ and me being a freshman, not really thinking, I asked her ‘Oh, which Natalie?’ She said ‘both y’all get off the court.’”

Novosel, a stellar Natalie in her own right, went on to play 31 games with the Washington Mystics in 2012, where it should be noted she played for then-Mystics assistant Marianne Stanley. Novosel currently ranks third in WNBA Natalie history with with 41 total rebounds as a Natalie.

Role models matter, and this proliferation of Natalie success bodes well for the next generation of us. As a Natalie who didn’t grow up watching a Natalie in the league, I hope that the young Natalies at home are inspired by Achonwa and all of her Natalie and non-Natalie related accomplishments. 

Written by Natalie Heavren

Natalie Heavren has been covering women’s basketball since February 2019 and currently covers both the Atlantic 10 and the WNBA.

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