WNBA Star and Member of Team USA | A Hoop Doctors Exclusive
July 26th, 2008 – Dr. J-Water
Just hours after posting a huge stat line (17 points, 9assists, 6 boards, 2 steals, 1 block) in a losing cause for the Indiana Fever against the Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA, All-Star Tamika Catchings agreed to answer some of my questions in this Hoop Doctors exclusive interview.
Tamika Catchings has led the Fever in points per game, rebounds, assists and steals in each of her first six active pro seasons – no other WNBA player has led her team in as many categories in even one of those seasons. Tamika was named the WNBA’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2005 and 2006, and she has finished among the top three in balloting for the WNBA MVP Award in four of her six active pro seasons. Catchings is the Indiana Fever’s first 2,000-point scorer and is a five-time WNBA All-Star. Another remarkable accomplishment is her 11 WNBA Player of the Week honors through six seasons, second in WNBA history to Lisa Leslie’s 14. Most recently however Catchings was once again named to the Team USA basketball squad for the Beijing Olympics looking to repeat as an Olympic Gold Medalist.
The Hoop Doctors (HD): Most of our readers would be aware of your achilles injury in September, given how hard it is to rehab that type of injury there must have been times you felt that the chance to make the Olympic team for the Beijing Olympics may be in jeopardy. How excited were you to hear you had been chosen, or was it more a feeling of relief?
Tamika Catchings (TC): I was super excited about the opportunity to represent my country again. I know it was a tough decision for the USA Committee to make, but I believe after they saw me back out there on the court, they truly had faith in me and my ability to bounce back from injuries and be effective for this team.
HD: You were on the gold medal winning Team USA in Athens 2004, do you feel having that experience under your belt helps you know going in what is required to win on the international stage? If so, what differences in the international game do you feel are the biggest challenges for a newcomer to adjust to?
TC: Yes, I definitely feel that in playing in 2004 has better prepared me for this time around. I think the biggest thing that we have to do is put all egos aside, and go out and play representing the USA. That was something that right from the beginning was expressed, and it was amazing how quickly we all gelled. The biggest differences for a newcomer is just knowing what you are on this team to do. Whether it’s being a defensive stopper, a rebounder, a scorer… whatever, I think identifying your role on any team is what is necessary. That’s the hardest part, then just accepting whatever minutes you get to play. We’re all used to playing big time minutes on our respective teams, but unfortunately in a new environment on a bigger stage, we have all of the best players on one team, but there’s still only 40 minutes in a game.
HD: You don’t get a lot of time to practice together in comparison to your international competition. In fact that has always been one of the only question marks for the Team USA program. Do you feel this squad of 12 selected players has a bit less to worry about on that front, given the fact that many of you have played together before?
TC: I know that is a topic of discussion for a lot of people, and I honestly think it goes back to what I just talked about in an earlier question. Checking egos at the door, and coming in with an open mind and willingness to put TEAM and USA first over me, me, and me. If we can do that and get our chemistry going quickly, there will be no worries about practice time.
HD: A lot of sports psychologists often talk about being “hungry.” Does the fact that you have already won an Olympic gold medal mean you are any less hungry this go around?
TC: NO!!! I think we are even hungrier this year!! We have so many new faces on our team, and it is going to be super important that each practice/ game we compete and realize that we have a big task ahead of us to focus on. So many of us have come through some tough obstacles to be on this team, so I think it means that much more as well.
HD: We all know you have tremendous scoring and defensive abilities and you have been proving that throughout your career. But do you feel this time around that Team USA is going to be looking to you more for your experience and leadership abilities?
TC: I definitely feel that this team is going to be looking for my experience and leadership abilities, along with what I do on the court on the defensive end. The coaching staff knows that they can rely on me to do whatever it is that they need me to do. Personally, knowing that they have so much confidence in me allows me to step up and be whatever it is I need to be for this team to win.
HD: Have you been keeping tabs on your international competition? I know things must get pretty hectic during the WNBA season. Are you going to rely heavily on your scouting and coaching staff with Team USA? Or are you confident that you have the major players pegged?
TC: I have not been keeping tabs on the international competition. Of course, we know who some of the major players are (Lauren Jackson, Penny Taylor, etc), but I think the scouting from the coaching staff will be really important in our preparation for games.
HD: Team USA Women’s Basketball has won 3 consecutive Olympic gold medals. Do you feel there will be any added pressure for the team to go out there and get that fourth?
TC: I think the pressure is always on when you look at where people place the USA over all the other countries. So yes, there is pressure to come back with the gold medal and nothing less.
HD: You have been a big time WNBA scorer leading the Indiana Fever for the past several years in that department. With Candice Parker, Lisa Leslie, and all of the other great scorers on this team, do you feel a bit of relief that you don’t have to carry as much of that burden and can focus more on affecting the game with your defense?
TC: I think we all feel the relief in having people alongside of us that can ease the load. The great thing about this team is that on any given night anyone can step up offensively and score points. I definitely feel that my role on this team is defense, but I’ll be ready to help this team in any ways that I can. HD: Have you been to Beijing before or is this a first? TC: We played the 2002 World Championships in Beijing so this is another opportunity to go to China. HD: Basketball has been popular in China for many years now, but since the arrival of Yao Ming on the NBA scene the popularity of the sport there seems to have skyrocketed. How do you think that your team will be received by the locals? TC: I hope that we will get a warm greeting over there, but honestly you never really know. China has definitely stepped it up as far as the popularity goes, so I think that it will be a warm reception. I remember in 2002 we were welcomed up until the championship game. Then we started hearing the boos and all of that. HD: Well Tamika, we know you are super busy right now during the WNBA season with the Fever and can’t talk long, so we really appreciate you taking the time to answer our questions for The Hoop Doctors readers. We got much love for you, and we are certainly all routing for Team USA Men and Women to bring home the Gold!! Good Luck, and Play Hard! TC: Thanks!