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Vol. 57, No. 1 • November 2019 • .pdf version
Catchings lends name to freshman award
Approached on WNBA opening night last spring after Indiana edged New York on the road in the final seconds, visiting Fever executive Tamika Catchings was asked how she would feel about her name becoming associated with the annual USBWA women's freshman of the year award.
The former Tennessee star was at the top of the list at the time as one of several being considered by the women's side to submit to the WNBA board for approval to add to the existing list of honors already accorded to some of the sport's greats.
"Oh, wow," she replied. "That would really be cool."
The board in its first teleconference meeting of the year easily agreed and earlier this month in Birmingham, Ala., at Southeastern Conference media day, Catchings, who is Indiana's vice president of basketball of operations, was formally announced with her name becoming part of the award.
"You don't go into the game to gather awards," said Catchings, a daughter of former NBA star Harvey Catchings. "You go into the game to leave a presence."
In the 1997-98 season when Catchings was a member of the famed Fab Five Lady Volunteers newcomers that teamed with then-junior Chamique Holdsclaw to go unbeaten at 39-0 and lead Tennessee to a third-straight NCAA title, she was the consensus national freshman of the year, averaging 18.2 points per game.
That season, she was named to the All-Final Four team in Kansas City after setting program records for most points with 711, including a 35-point game against DePaul.
Catchings went on to become a three-time USBWA All-American and the association's national player of the year as a junior in the 1999-2000 season. She finished as a senior in 2001 with 2,133 career points and 1,004 career rebounds.
Recruited by the legendary Pat Summitt, Catchings led Tennessee to dominate the Southeastern Conference, sweeping all four potential titles while compiling a 134-10 record overall, including a 54-2 mark in conference competition.
Several years ago, when Catchings was finishing an outstanding 15-year pro career with Indiana in the WNBA, an official at the time involved with event schedules in Thompson-Boling Arena, the Lady Vols' home venue, noted, "I've seen them all come through here and there have been a lot of great ones.
"But no question, Tamika was by far the greatest of them all."
Catchings' international career saw her participate on Olympic gold-medal winning teams in 2004, '08, '12 and '16.
While the focus involving naming USBWA women's awards is on the collegiate game, it is still worthy to cite Catchings' WNBA achievements that include a Fever title in 2012 and earning the finals MVP following a regular season MVP in 2011.
Adding to those honors, her four Olympic gold medals, five WNBA defensive player of the year and rookie of the year (2002) awards makes her one of only 11 women to excel in all four categories.
Drafted third overall in 2001 but sidelined by an injury that summer, Catchings, who turned 40 in July, went on to lead the league in steals eight times and earn 10 WNBA All-Star nods as well as 12 each all-WNBA and all-WNBA defensive team selections.
She has a master's degree in Sports Studies from Tennessee. Her Catch The Stars Foundation helps disadvantaged youth achieve their dreams by promoting fitness, literacy and youth development.
"There is no better example, mentor and role model for gifted freshmen than Tamika," said Malcolm Moran, USBWA executive director and director of the Sports Capital Journalism Program at IUPUI. "Her commitment to community service and her move into management are also an inspiration for the next generation. She is an ideal choice."
The Tamika Catchings Award becomes the fourth named award for women's college basketball by the USBWA. It joins the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award for National Player of the Year, the Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award, which was named after Catchings' Hall of Fame coach at Tennessee, and the Mary Jo Haverbeck Award for service to the USBWA.
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