July 25, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- After helping the USA Women's National Team cut through its exhibition schedule with a 5-0 record, former Tennessee Lady Vols Tamika Catchings and Candace Parker now turn their thoughts toward competition that means everything at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England.
Catchings and Parker, both Olympic veterans and NCAA Champions, started all five of those exhibition contests for Team USA. Parker averaged 8.8 points and 6.8 rebounds in just over 19 minutes per game. Catchings also scored at an 8.8 clip and averaged 4.8 rebounds and 3.4 steals per contest in the same playing time. Both averaged 46 percent shooting from the field.
Catchings can call upon her experience as a two-time gold medalist, helping the Americans claim victory in 2004 and 2008. Parker also was part of that triumph in Beijing in 2008.
As she strives to win gold a third time, Catchings put things into perspective for the younger members of the team.
"The first few days are a little hectic with Opening Ceremonies, processing, families coming in, everybody getting adjusted to being in a new country," Catchings said. "There are a lot of different things happening, a lot of different people around. So, the first couple of days it is really about taking time for yourself. You kind of have to step outside of everything and let everything settle in.
"But after that, you really need to stay focused on why we're there. We're not there to hang out. We're not there to have a good time. We're on a mission. Operation Gold is our mission. We need to stay focused when we're on the court practicing or even off the court - making sure we're not walking around a lot. Staying off your feet is important, but, of course, still being able to enjoy the moment."
Parker also is looking forward to the Games and the atmosphere in London.
"I'm very excited," Parker said. "The craziness is going to happen over the next few days where we have stuff other than basketball dealing with the Olympics, but it's a really good feeling to be so close."
USA will begin its quest for a fifth-straight gold medal on Saturday, as the Americans take on Croatia at 11:45 a.m Eastern Daylight Time in the first of five preliminary-round contests. Catchings, Parker and company handed a 109-55 loss to that club on July 21.
The Americans also face Angola on July 30 (5:15 p.m. ET), Turkey on Aug. 1 (5:15 p.m. ET), Czech Republic on Aug. 3 (5:15 p.m. ET) and China on Aug. 5 (11:45 a.m. ET). The quarterfinals are slated for Aug. 7, followed by the semifinals on Aug. 9 and the finals on Aug. 11.