Aug. 15, 2012
INDIANAPOLIS -- After spending a month in London for the 2012 Olympics, and adding another gold medal to her collection, Tamika Catchings is ready to return to action for the Indiana Fever. The former Lady Vol All-American and national champion took time Wednesday to meet with the media to talk about both subjects.
The reigning WNBA MVP now has a total of three gold medals, also helping the U.S. women's basketball team to Olympic titles in Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008. She is the first female UT Olympian to claim that many golds.
"Every single one has meant a lot to me," Catchings said. "The first one would probably be the most memorable just from the standpoint of the 1996 Olympics (being in the U.S., in Atlanta), and then here I am, playing with the players that I dreamed about."
But she hasn't let the Olympic high deter her from her regular-season goals, as Catchings was quick to jump back into practice with the Fever after being in the states for just four days.
"(I'm) putting more expectation on my teammates, as far as what we want to accomplish and where we want to be at the end of the season," Catchings said. "We had a break, had a little time before we got back to work, so now we should be ready to roll."
One of the few accolades the former Lady Vol standout hasn't earned in her illustrious career is a WNBA title. She and her teammates, who stand in second place in the Eastern Conference, begin their quest to change that on Thursday, as the Washington Mystics come to town.
(Most Prominent Memory From The 2012 Olympic Games)
"Just looking at the experience overall, it was just a great group of ladies that I had the opportunity to play with and be around. I think every single game really was memorable. I know you guys are different because you're watching from the outside, but one thing being a part of it and sitting on the bench and even though the games were sometimes a little bit - the span between points was a little bit wide and we were beating teams by a lot - it was still like everybody was so into it. Not once did you look down the bench and no one was in tune to what was going on in the game. I think just having that intensity was a great feeling."
(On Being Called A "Dream Team")
"We got asked about that a lot over there. One thing I just kept coming back with was you really can't look at it as a `Dream Team.' I think every single year the USA has produced some great teams over the years both on the men's and women's sides. They wanted to compare our team to the '96 Olympic Team, and I'm like, `you know, the eras are so different, too, where we are now, and just even with the WNBA having 16 years now.' The girls that have had the opportunity to grow up with the WNBA around and have the opportunity to look forward to `one day I want to be in the WNBA' and then even further more `one day I want to play in the Olympics.' So I look at this team as just another one of those stepping stones and something that young girls and boys all over the world were looking at our team and both teams like `one day I want to be in their shoes.'"
(On The Third Medal Meaning As Much As The First Gold Medal And Getting The Same Feeling)
"Yeah, I did. I kind of told them I feel like I'm in a bubble, like this can't be happening. I think every single time, and it was with a different group of ladies. Obviously, 2004, my first experience, being one of the young ones, you don't really say much at all. You really don't talk. And you just play, so that was my first experience. 2008, you get a little bit more respect. You can use your words, but use them wisely. And this last time, I'm the oldest one on the team, which you know is not that old, but just looking at that and from a leadership standpoint, being able to take more of a leadership role."
(How Her Fever Teammates Reacted With Her Return And Seeing The Medal)
"They didn't know I brought it at first. I walked in and brought some little goodies for my team. Just some little bags that had the flag on them and a couple of pins. The pins are really big for the Olympics. I brought them a couple USA basketball ones and then some of the mascot from the Olympics. Then JP (Jeanette Pohlen) said, `hey, I wanna see the medal,' so I pulled it out and after that everybody was like `ahhh.' You know Zellous (Shavonte Zellous) was one of them that probably hogged it the most. She had to put it on, `okay, everybody take pictures, I'm the Olympian,' and I was like, `that's why some people don't...' It's all in fun; we have a lot of fun."
(On Getting Back To Work With The Fever)
"I think the biggest thing is knowing that my teammates work so hard. And that's one thing we talked about in the locker room before practice, is just what they've been doing, on and off the court, just spending time with each other, but on the court, taking care of business. And I think they were inspired as well from watching the Olympic Games and watching the success that we had as a team. And I know that before I left one of the challenges was, when we come back in the second half, we need to do a lot better than we did in the first half. We have a couple games home then we go to the West Coast, and we always kind of have our ups and downs throughout that second part of the season, so I feel like for me just coming back and kind of blending right back in and putting more expectation on my teammates as far as what we want to accomplish and where we want to be at the end of the season. We had a break, had a little time before you got back to work, so now we should be ready to roll."
(On Whether She Has Experienced Jet Lag)
"I feel good, actually. Got back late Sunday night. I flew all day Sunday. Got back Sunday night, kind of took the last two days to relax, chill out, hang out with my family and came in this morning. I feel great. One thing about it, even while being over there, I missed my teammates. I had a great time with those ladies, we had a really good time, but there's something about having your home and your team and everybody was texting, tweeting, Facebooking and emailing, so I stayed in constant contact with them. When I got back, everybody was like `don't come to the gym; don't come to the gym,' so I didn't come, but I couldn't wait to get here this morning."
(On Whether She'll Try To Play In Future Olympic Games)
"Before going into this, I was like `this is it; this is my final one,' and you know there's something about playing in those games. It's something where you don't understand that feeling until you get to the end and you're like `oh, my gosh, it's over.' We won the gold and it's great. We're walking around and everyone is like `congratulations' and we got to Craig Sager (for postgame interviews) and he's like `okay, what's going to happen in Rio?' and Diana was like, `okay, we're going to Rio.' And I was like `what, we are?' (laughs). I don't know. Four years is a long ways from now, and we've got to take care of business here, first and foremost. We'll see what happens. The Lord will take me where he wants me."
(On Whether She Could Have Imagined In High School Where Her Career Has Taken Her)
"Well, when I was in high school the WNBA wasn't around, so that never even crossed my mind. I wanted to be in the NBA, so I was like `okay, I will have a part of that.' And then in `96, that was the first time I ever remember watching the Olympics and watched the women in the Olympic Games. I knew if I ever had the opportunity to play in the Olympics, it would be like the best feeling ever. I wanted to play with Dawn, Lisa and Sheryl; that was my dream and that came in 2002. When you think about, kind of how I started off, talking about the three different Olympics and my role, every single one has meant a lot to me. The first one would probably be the most memorable, just from the standpoint of the `96 Olympics and then here I am, playing with the players that I dreamed about with my role model from that span of time, so that was kind of like more of a learning experience. I don't think I'd be the player that I am today if I hadn't had that experience and if I hadn't learned so much from those players that I had the opportunity to play with. (pause) And if I hadn't gone to Tennessee I probably wouldn't be playing defense (laughs)."