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Tamika Catchings shares wisdom with a "panel" of college basketball players

With the Women's Basketball Coaches Association announcing their inaugural Allstate Good Works Team yesterday, Swish Appeal had the opportunity to conduct another interview with Indiana Fever star Tamika Catchings. However, rather than ask the questions ourselves, we had a group of NCAA players - including 2013 Good Works Team honoree Drey Mingo - ask the questions in order to gather some wisdom from one of women's basketball's greatest stars.

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Drey Mingo, Purdue

Having won on the highest levels of basketball, what motivates you most to keep from becoming complacent?

Tamika Catchings:
“Great question, Drey. I think the thing that motivates me the most is that I can continue to get better. And not only on the court but even off the court -- both of us are a lot alike, as far as having our own foundations and having to deal with the hearing loss. That’s why one of the main reasons that I started playing basketball. Sports were always an avenue for me to be able to overcome, and just fit in with everybody else. And so over time, when I started to realize that I could get better and better, it was something that motivated me. Even to this day, like I know I’m not the best that I could be, and knowing that I have more years to play -- another couple of years hear and there. When I’m done and take these shoes off, I want to be the best player that I could possibly be.”

Mingo: As active as you are in the community and as invested as you are to your athletic endeavors, how do you maximize your efforts without spreading yourself too thin?

Catchings: “Wow, how do you do that (smiling)…another great question Drey. I think that what you have to learn how to do is say no -- which has always been the hardest word. It’s hard to tell people no, but I think sometimes even for me. Early on when I first got into playing professionally, I said yes to everything, ‘Do this, do that.’ But now here I am and it’s kind of like, I know what is really important to me -- my foundation, playing basketball and God comes before all of that. My priorities are just set -- like I do Bible studies on Wednesdays, and my schedule works around that. And I go to church on Sunday.

“I talk to my coaching staff here (before) the season and during the season, and let them know what’s important for me. We try to move practice a little bit later and of course, all of the other requests just kind of go in line with what I have to do. As far as during the season and practice and games and then off-season, whatever kind of fits into the downtime I do have. By the way, congratulations on making the team! Have to give a shout out to (you) for making the Allstate WBCA Good Works team. I think that’s a huge honor, especially with this being the first season. Everybody to recognize…I read the essay that came in and all the great things that people had to say about (you). Just want to give a shout out and congratulations!”

Lindsey Moore, Nebraska

What’s the biggest difference from college basketball to the WNBA?

Lindsey, I would say the biggest difference is the speed of the game and the caliber of players. When you look at the WNBA, this is the best of the best in the whole world. Not just necessarily the best in America, but the best players coming from overseas that want the opportunity to play in the WNBA. Players are faster, quicker and stronger. With all of that, you have to become a smarter basketball player."

And what do you wish somebody would have or could have told you when you were first starting out in the WNBA?

Catchings: “Lindsey, I think for me (that) my road was different. I had Chamique (Holdsclaw) at (Tennessee). And I got to play with her my freshman and sophomore year. And I remember when she came back, and I was working out -- my junior year. And Chamique came back, and I asked her that (same) question. One of the things that she said, ‘I wish I would’ve taken weights more seriously, like I wish I would’ve focused on getting stronger while I was in college.’ And really, from that moment on, [the light went off]. Up until (then), I hated going to weights, and I hated anything that had to do weights. Once Chamique came back and said that, my whole attitude about weights changed. My rookie season with the (Indiana) Fever -- I had actually tore my ACL senior year, so when I came in, I didn’t play my first year. So I really had a chance to get strong, to see the game up close, to really study plays; and I think that really helped me become a better basketball player as well.”

Brittany Kennedy, FGCU

Where do you get your passion to lock down an opponent and is there significance behind wearing #24?

Catchings: “Brittany, the number has been in my family. My father (Harvey Catchings) played in the NBA, and he wore number #42. And then I have an older brother that wore half of my dad’s number, which is 21. Then I have an older sister who wore opposite of my brother which is number 12. I wear opposite of my dad, which is 24 -- so that’s the significance of (my) number.

“My passion for defense came from college…came from playing underneath Pat Summitt (laughing). Up until my freshman year in college, I really did not play defense -- it wasn’t (something) I was noted for. My sister and I played together, so she was the defensive player, and I was the offensive player. When I got to Tennessee that was something that Pat said, ‘If we don’t play defense, you won’t be on the court.’ And I didn’t want to sit on the bench. So over time and playing in that system, it was something that I was like, ‘You can get really good and shut somebody down!’ So my goal was always like, ‘Ok, if you’ve averaged 20 points, my goal is for you to have no more than 13 points.’ Even now, I still do that.”

Cierra Burdick, Tennessee

What does your workout schedule look like? How many days off do you take to rest your body?

Catchings: “I just got back from overseas, and I know I saw you guys when I came [to Tennessee] for Pat (Summit’s) banner hanging. Right now, I haven’t been working out; I normally like to take about a month and a half to two months off after the season. But this past year, I went to China…I literally went to China right after the season was over -- I didn’t really get that break. So I’m taking it right now before I [get into everything]. But once I get going here in the next month, I pretty much (workout) six days. I normally take at least one day off, sometimes I take two days -- just depending on what I have going on. Normally, I wake up and get in the gym right away, but I don’t only do basketball. I do Budokan which is a combination of different karate styles, and then I do some swimming classes too -- I try to mix it up a little bit."

Thea Lemberger, UCLA

What did it take to become one of the best female basketball players of all-time?

Catchings: (Long pause) "Umm…wow. Thea, I think this goes back to college, where things that I would talk about with Pat (Summitt). Pat never really wanted us to just be great basketball players. She wanted us to be great basketball players, but she also wanted us to be great in the classroom -- she wanted A’s and B’s. She wanted us to be great in the community and one of the main reasons for this interview is because of Allstate WBCA Good Works team. So, even though we didn’t have the Allstate WBCA Good Works team back then, that was something that Pat really preached about us doing a lot of stuff in the community. I think all of that is the reason why I’m so good on the court. Yeah I have my good days and bad days, in practice and games, but it allows me to kind of have another avenue to look forward to. I’m passionate about what I do in the community too. I think having a good balance between the things I do on the court which kind of helps me."

Natecia Augusta, Northern Illinois University

What kept you motivated throughout college?

Catchings: “Natecia, the thing that kept me motivated in college is I wanted to graduate. I’ve always been the one to enjoy school, and I even graduated early. And I had a jump on getting my Master’s, so that was something that kept me motivated. I think that being around my teammates and playing for the one of the best coaches, and playing with a lot of some of the best players in the world -- which I thought. I never wanted to let my teammates down, and I didn’t want to let myself down -- I was always motivated to get better. And then my goal was to play in the WNBA, so I knew that I was going to have to work really hard. And everyday was a reminder of the things that I could better at.”

Kristen McCarthy, alumnus, Temple University

What is your mindset before every game?

Catchings: “Good question Kristen. My mindset before every game (is) what I am going to do on both ends of the court. On the offensive end, its make your lay-ups, just staying focused on free throws. Just kind of imagine the game as it goes, but even when I talk about the defensive tenacity that I play with. Like, ‘What am I going to do?’ I think about what my opponents are good at. Like a Diana Taurasi -- a great shooter, how am I going to slow her down or keep her from getting the ball? Trying to think of what plays they work on as we go over their different plays in shoot around. So in my mind, I go through everything that’s leading up to the game. And then an hour before the game, we have chapel. So my mindset shifts to getting refocused. When I come out of chapel, I’m just going with the flow and getting ready from the game -- and not really stressing about anything.”

Chatilla Van Grinsven, St. Joseph’s

When did you know you were ready to play at the next level?

Catchings: “Good question, Chatilla. I knew I was ready when Chamique (Holdsclaw) came back and really talked about getting in the weight room, and being focused to get to that next level. Once I started focusing on getting stronger, getting quicker (and) getting better -- that was literally my junior year. And of course my senior year didn’t go as planned as far as me suffering the injury. Even throughout that I felt like I was ready to play at that next level.”