Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Rob Knox's WNBA Report: Tamika Catchings Reflects and Looks to the Future

By Rob Knox (@knoxrob1)

NEW YORK –
A monument of excellence, Tamika Catchings reflected on her remarkable career and legacy while looking ahead to the future.

Catchings, now in her 14th year in the WNBA, knows the time is coming soon to hang up the high-tops, kick her feet back up on the sofa and watch the new generation take the league to new heights during the next decade.

Even though Catchings hasn’t publicly mentioned retiring and is not planning to do so anytime soon, the affable 35-year old Indiana Fever forward has started thinking about a life that doesn’t involve playing hoops.

“I have my own (Catch The Stars) foundation and I am very passionate about working with kids and in the community,” Catchings said. “That’s something I know I’ll do. I also want to be a general manager of a team whether it’s here in the WNBA or in the NBA. That’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while.”

With retiring San Antonio guard Becky Hammon being named an assistant coach for the Spurs last week, Catchings knows that her goal of becoming a general manager is possible.

“It’s so awesome,” Catchings said of Hammon’s hiring. “It’s funny because I’ve talked to her and some other players.

"Of all the players picking players to move into that next step and be a positive role model who could do it and allow for other players to expand and go down that road, she’s the one. She’s such a great person and I am happy for her and she’ll do great. What an amazing opportunity for her.”

Catchings also has something else she wants to accomplish.

“I want to get married have kids and do what normal people do,” Catchings said with a laugh Sunday afternoon in the Indiana Fever locker room prior to its game against New York. “I don’t want to have to feel like I have to wake up and work out.

"If I want to lay in bed all day, I can lay in bed all day. I just want to enjoy life. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do and I love playing basketball.”

The current players in the league enjoy a luxury that Catchings didn’t have when she was growing up.

There was no WNBA until Catchings’ freshman year at the University of Tennessee.

Since she idolized her father, Harvey, a 12-year NBA veteran who spent part of his career with the Philadelphia 76ers, Catchings’ goal growing up was to play in the NBA.

While that goal didn’t materialize, Catchings has made the dreams of thousands of wide-eyed girls come true by playing with grace, elegance and class on the court as well as being a tremendous ambassador off of it.

“I wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps and be like him,” Catchings said. “Even though I had a couple of things going against me, I was like if you work hard; anything can happen.

"The WNBA came around and this was an opportunity for me to do something that I love in front of my family and friends here. Now, that I am towards the end of my career; it’s been an amazing run," she said.

“Look at the caliber of players that came through this league and continue to come through this league. They grew up watching the WNBA.

"It’s funny because when I talk to our younger players, they’ll say to me, ‘I remember watching you play and now I have to pinch myself because I can’t believe that I am playing with you.’ It’s been a great journey.”

One that Catchings wants to continue for another few weeks.

While the past and future are nice, Catchings is focused on the present and trying to lead the Fever into the playoffs for a 10th straight season.

Indiana is currently tied for third place with Chicago in the spandex-tight Eastern Conference. The Fever (14-17 overall) has three games remaining in the regular season. Two against New York and one against Chicago.

During her time in the league, Catchings has been involved in nearly every type of playoff scenario.

There’s been times when the Fever were the big dog and had a playoff berth locked up with games to spare and then there’s been other times when the Fever had to win a lot of games late in order to earn a postseason berth.

But this year has been different even for Catchings, who missed the first 15 games of the season with back issues.

“Preferably, I liked to have a playoff spot wrapped up by now and not be in this position,” Catchings said. “I think the battle is good. It’s something that’s different down the stretch and fun for the fans.

"Having to work hard like this is good though and puts us in a position to make the playoffs. Who knows, it could possibly give us momentum to get to the WNBA Finals.

"It does bring an excitement level and they know they’re going to get a game. The parity will help the league as well.”

Catchings’ name is all over the WNBA record books.

Already the WNBA’s all-time leader in steals and free throws, Catchings is the only player in the entire history of the league to rank among the top 10 in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.

In addition, she’s been the league’s Defensive Player of the Year five times (2005, 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2011). She’s an eight-time All-Star, three-time Olympic gold medalist, 2012 WNBA Finals MVP after leading the Fever to the title and 2011 league MVP.

While all of the accomplishments are awesome, Catchings biggest impact has been on the lives of others with her Catch The Stars program that serves underprivileged kids ages 7 through 16.

Celebrating its 10th Anniversary, her foundation offers a dozen programs including basketball camps, fitness clinics and mentoring and literacy programs.

A fearless competitor, Catchings may be a role model to thousands of little girls who aspire to one day wear her No. 24 jersey, but she’s a champion where it matters most in life where she’s hurdled her share of obstacles such as being hearing impaired as a little girl and tearing her anterior cruciate ligament prior to her rookie season.

Yet through it all, Catchings has remained true to her purpose of lifting others up and making a difference. She will be missed once she leaves the game, but fortunately her spirit and sterling smile will live on as the league continues to move forward.

“I want to be remembered for the passion I played with,” Catchings said. “I also people to remember that I always played on both ends of the floor and that every day I went out and I gave 100 percent. I smile while I am playing because I love what I do.”

QUIGLEY COMES THROUGH: Chicago Sky guard Allie Quigley was named the WNBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the first time in her career.

Quigley, a former DePaul star in Chicago, earned the recognition based on her performance throughout the week of August 4-10 where she scored at least 17 points in each of the team's three games.

On August 5th, Quigley shot 7-for-10 from the field and scored 17 points to help the Sky beat Connecticut 82-66.

Quigley followed up that performance two days later against the defending WNBA Champion Minnesota Lynx when she led the Sky in scoring with 20 points. She shot a team-best 64.3% field-goal percentage. On Sunday, Quigley again led the Sky in scoring with 17 points in an 80-69 victory over the Atlanta Dream.

Following a 2-1 week, the Sky moved into third place in the East and one step closer to securing a second consecutive post-season berth.

Since Elena Delle Donne’s return, the Sky are a perfect 4-0 overall against Eastern Conference opponents. The Sky visit the Mystics in a key clash Wednesday morning at 11:30 a.m.

“It’s a well-deserved honor for a player that has stayed the course throughout her career,” said head coach & general manager Pokey Chatman. “More importantly she stayed the course this year for us transitioning from a two guard to a point guard, back and forth, and she's still been able to maintain a high level of consistency. That's been the big reason we have been able to win some games lately so I am happy for her.”

Quigley is averaging 10.8 points per game and 24.4 minutes per game this season.

GRINER LARGE AND IN CHARGE: Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner was named the WNBA’s Western Conference Player of the Week for games played August 4-10. For Griner, it is the second Player of the Week honor of her career, both this season (June 23), and the fourth overall by a Mercury player in 2014 (Diana Taurasi – June 9, July 7).

Griner helped to lead the Mercury to a 3-0 record during the week, averaging 15.0 points, 9.3 rebounds and a league-best 5.33 blocked shots. Griner

The former Baylor star who already owns the WNBA record for blocks in a single game and is on pace to establish a new league mark for blocks-per-game average in a season, set the WNBA single-season record for total blocked shots on Thursday at San Antonio.

Her 115th block of the season, which broke a 16-year-old WNBA record, came at the 7:03 mark of the third quarter. Griner moved past the late Margo Dydek, who had held the record since 1998.

On Saturday against second-place Minnesota, Griner secured a two-point win, blocking a game-tying lay-up attempt in the final seconds in a thrilling 82-80 victory over the defending champion Minnesota Lynx.

In addition to her two blocks on Saturday, Griner scored 19 points and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds for her sixth double-double of the year.

On Tuesday against Atlanta, Griner started the week with one of the more complete games of her career, tallying 14 points, nine rebounds and nine blocked shots in a win over the Dream.

For the season, the second-year pro is averaging a career-high 15.7 points, a career-high and team-leading 7.9 rebounds, and a league-leading 3.97 blocks per game. She also ranks third in the WNBA in field goal percentage (.581).

MERCURY CHASING HISTORY: Owners of the best record in the league (26-4) and a franchise-record 26 victories, Phoenix has won four consecutive games following a franchise-record 16-game win streak, the second-longest in WNBA history.

The team opens the final week of the regular season in New York Tuesday night.

If the Mercury win out they will be the first team in league history to win 30 regular season games. Phoenix is two wins away from tying Houston’s all-time single season record for wins with 28.

TAURASI RETURNS: The most decorated player in team history and one of the best players in women’s basketball history, Phoenix guard Diana Taurasi signed a multi-year contract extension, the team announced Friday.

Taurasi is in the 11th year of her storied WNBA career that has been spent entirely with the Mercury.

“Why would I ever want to play anywhere else?” said Taurasi. “As a person and a professional, I have a deep connection to this city and this organization. I am happy and feel really good about staying.

"At All-Star this year, everyone got to see what I see every day: Phoenix is a great basketball community, the Mercury is a first-class organization, and this a family that I’m proud to be a part of. There is no better place to play.”

A two-time WNBA Champion with the Mercury (2007, 2009), former league MVP (2009) and WNBA Finals MVP (2009), Taurasi has played 325 career games, all with the Mercury, since originally being selected first overall by Phoenix in the 2004 WNBA Draft.

The second-leading scorer in league history is a five-time league scoring champion, who also owns the second-highest scoring average in WNBA history. Named one of the WNBA’s 15 greatest players of all-time, Taurasi is a seven-time All-Star and an eight-time All-WNBA First Team selection.

The longest-tenured player in Mercury history, Taurasi has played more games in a Mercury uniform than anyone else, and leads the franchise in 15 other career statistical categories.

The league’s 2004 Rookie of the Year, Taurasi is one of the sport’s most decorated athletes, whose non-WNBA accolades include three Olympic Gold Medals, six Euroleague titles, three USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year awards, and three NCAA Championships while at the University of Connecticut.

STORM STAYING ALIVE: Seattle rallied from a 13-point deficit to beat Tulsa, 74-68, Sunday night to extend its winning streak to three games and keep alive its slim playoff hopes. The Storm must win their final two games (on the road against Los Angeles and home against Phoenix) and the Silver Stars have to lose both of their remaining games (home against Minnesota and on the road against Chicago).

Penn State’s Tanisha Wright became the eighth player in WNBA history to record 1,000 assists with the same team (Sue Bird, Catchings, Hammon, Ticha Penicheiro, Dawn Staley, Taurasi and Teresa Weatherspoon) in the Storm’s win over Tulsa.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

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