Tamika Catchings exceeds expectations
Tamika Catchings always plays physically.
Tamika Catchings always plays physically.
Posted May 24, 2007

It's no surprise Tamika Catchings is one of the top players in the world -- after all, her father Harvey played 11 seasons in the NBA and her sister Tauja played college basketball at the University of Illinois, was picked in the WNBA's 200 draft, but now plays professionally in Sweden.

But Catchings has achieved the most, after starting her high school basketball career at Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Illinois, where she helped led the team to the IHSA Division AA State championship. She was also named Illinois Ms. Basketball as a sophomore — the youngest player to receive the award at the time. After her sophomore year in high school, her family moved to Duncanville, Texas, where she went to school at Duncanville High School. She helped Duncanville to a state championship her senior year and she also helped the school win its first-ever volleyball championship as a junior.

Catchings then moved on to Tennessee from 1997 to 2001. She helped the Vols win their last national championship before this year's title. She was a Kodak All-America recipient for four consecutive seasons, joining Naismith Player of the Century Chamique Holdsclaw as one of only four women ever to be named four times.

The Indiana Fever drafted Catchings in 2001, but she didn't play in the WNBA until 2002, when she was named league Rookie of the Year. She suffered a leg injury in 2001 that caused her to miss the season. She has scored 2,000 points in the WNBA and was the fastest player to record 2,000 points in the WNBA, in just her fourth season. She was also the fastest to 1,000 rebounds, 400 assists, and 300 steals, and she is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, an award she has won for the past two summers.

She was voted in to the 2006 WNBA All-Star Game, as the leading vote getter, but had to sit out because of a foot injury. At half time of the game, she was announced as a member of the All-Decade Team along with nine other players and Comets coach Van Chancellor. Catchings is a four-time WNBA All-Star, five-time All-WNBA and she is also president of the WNBA Players Association. She has also played for the USA Women's Basketball Team at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, helping the team win the gold medal.

Full Court Press: Everyone's talking about Indiana this summer. How does it feel to be considered one of the top teams in the WNBA?

Tamika Catchings: It's definitely exciting, especially since I've been here since 2001, and now everyone's kind of talking about the possibilities about Indiana being a good team. But everybody always has their doubts. I think for this year, I'm more excited because it seems like we have all the pieces that we need to be a very successful team and really compete for a championship.

FCP: You've added Tammy Sutton-Brown and Sheri Sam for this season. How much will their veteran presence help the Fever?

TC: Definitely with Tammy, I think she brings a big presence for us -- something that we've lacked down low in the post inside -- and experience. She definitely brings a different element. As far as Sheri, she's someone who I've played against quite a few times in my years in the WNBA and she brings a lot of veteran leadership. She's a bigger guard who can handle the ball if we need her to bring the ball up the court. She can shoot and defend. She does all this stuff -- the little things that we need to win.

FCP: Tan White had a big game already this season. How has she improved in the offseason?

TC: She went overseas and had a very good season over in Poland. I think her confidence is up, which is something that she struggled with the last couple of years with the Fever. We're excited having her back. She had a great season overseas. For us, during the preseason, she did a good job of going to the basket and scoring and playing great defense, so we're expecting great things from her this year.

FCP: You've always been considered a great defender. What does it take physically to be a dominant defender?

TC: I'm always the one who has to guard the best players on the other team, so one of the things I try to focus on is to try to keep the ball out of the opposing player's hands. That's the first thing to concentrate on. The second is just trying to get them to give up the ball. Whatever I can do to make them give the ball up and get the ball in the hands of someone else — one of their teammates — then I know I'm doing my job.

FCP: What does it take mentally to be a WNBA all-defensive player every year?

TC: Mentally you just have to have confidence — every night that I go out I just study the people I know I have to guard. I study them to see what are their weaknesses, what can I do to possibly stop whoever I'm guarding. I think a lot of it is just thinking beforehand about what you can do to stop them.

FCP: People always talk about Tully Bevilaqua's leadership. How does that manifest itself on a day-to-day basis?

TC: Tully came to our team after winning a championship up in Seattle and basically since she touched down in Indiana, she's done a great job of keeping our team together. She's our point guard, so she leads our team in the offensive sets and even defensively. Last year, she made the defensive team first-team and I think right from the beginning of the game, she sets the tone for us -- even in practice she sets the tone for us, as well.

FCP: A lot of folks were disappointed when the Americans finished third in the World Championships this past summer. What needs to be changed for the USA to win the gold in Beijing?

TC: Time. I think time and experience with one another. The team will play in a lot of different events during the training periods coming up. We just went to Italy (in April) for training camp. I think the biggest thing for the USA to win the gold is we have to spend a lot of time playing with one another and get to know each other on the basketball court. Then, when we go over there, not take any teams lightly.

FCP: How has playing internationally improved your game?

TC: I think when you play international basketball, it brings a whole new dimension to each one of our games. International (basketball), I think, is more physical and depending on where you go, it could be faster. There's different aspects that you have to adjust to -- I think that's what has helped me playing overseas. When I play defense, having to guard different players, whether I am playing the post, or whether I'm playing point guard, or playing the 2-3. It's provided me the opportunity to kind of see how I can do in different positions.

FCP: Are there differences between playing overseas and playing in the WNBA?

TC: Yes, definitely. There's definitely differences playing overseas and playing in the WNBA. Like I said, I think the international game is more physical than the WNBA. That might be because when us WNBA players go over there and play in different leagues, like Korea, where I go, it's a lot more physical over there. Even with USA Basketball and playing in the USA Basketball competition, they always seem to be a little bit more physical.

FCP: Your alma mater, Tennessee, won another title this year. Do you still follow the Volunteers?

TC: Oh yeah. Definitely. I was super excited to see Tennessee go ahead and take the championship. It's been a long time since we've won it, so it's definitely an exciting time. As far as getting a chance to go down to Nashville or having an opportunity to be at the Final Four this year, I didn't get that opportunity. I definitely follow them and was excited learning that we've won the championship.

FCP: Did you win your NCAA March Madness tournament pool this year, with the Vols winning it all?

TC: Yeah, I did. I had Tennessee going all the way. My ballot won.

FCP: Your first year in the league, you made 39% of your threes. Last year, it went down to around 29%. Is it a matter of confidence with you, or is there some physical change in your shot that's cause the drop?

TC: I think it's a combination of everything. Having different players last year, we had a totally different group and a different offense that went along with the different group. I think, as a whole team, we really struggled shooting the ball. Hopefully, this year, coming off the offseason when I've spent quite a bit of time shooting, it'll pay off.

FCP: Over the years, you've become kind of a spokesperson for the deaf community. Have you noticed any changes in acceptance of deaf people in the American society?

TC: Personally, I haven't from the people that I've come in contact with. I never really saw being deaf was kind of a disability or anything like that. Some of the kids I've come into contact with have a hearing problem or might be deaf, yet I sense they get a lot more confidence by coming into contact with me. And I think having a different role model, too, helps.

Related Stories
USA star Candace Parker to get some rest now
 -by InsideTennessee.com  Sep 24, 2006
Catchings injured
 -by InsideTennessee.com  Jul 10, 2006
Catchings the best ever?
 -by InsideTennessee.com  Jun 16, 2006

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