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Catching up with Tamika Catchings: The Indiana Fever's injuries, perseverance, and Pat Summitt

Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings is using her voice to raise awareness for diabetes. She also chats about injuries, perseverance and Pat Summitt.

Tamika Catchings
Tamika Catchings
Ed Mulholland-US PRESSWIRE

Tamika Catchings understands she has considerable influence on children and she is using it now to raise awareness for diabetes. The WNBA's reigning Finals MVP and five time Defensive Player of the Year spent an afternoon in media interviews to promote her latest endeavor.

"The direct thing is getting people to go to the website," Catchings said. "There are a lot of cool things on the website, but at the end there is a risk assessment test. From that, depending on what the results are, get them to the doctor and get them diagnosed properly.

"It's the WNBA, NBA, NBA Developmental League, Sanofi US and the American Diabetes Association. Between all of those, there are a lot of different camps, fitness clinics and programs that they do that kids can get involved and get the information."

Catchings runs her own foundation and is always willing to help, especially if the outreach involves youngsters. She is being honored Thursday in her college hometown when the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame will recognize her with the Pat Summitt Ignite Greatness Award. The legendary Tennessee coach was the initial recipient and now the award is named for her.

"I think anytime you can get an award that exemplifies Pat, it's exciting," Catchings said.

Catchings won't be present to accept the award. The Indiana Fever finish a four-game home stand Thursday against the Minnesota Lynx. Tipoff is set for noon at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The Fever won the season opener and then lost seven consecutive games for a 1-7 start. The defending league champions were beset by injuries but then managed a three-game win streak to improve to 4-7.

Catchings missed two games in June because of a sore back but tallied 28 points, six steals, five rebounds, three assists and four blocks upon return in an 80-69 win over Tulsa on June 28 that ignited the win streak.

"I had a little issue with my back," she said. "I am feeling good now, so let's just keep it rolling."

Layshia Clarendon was sidelined for two games with a hip contusion and had been limited minutes-wise until this month. Erin Phillips is expected back soon after a torn meniscus. Katie Douglas, who has a bulging disc in her lower back, and Jeanette Pohlen, who is still recovering from ACL surgery, are supposed to be activated in August, and Jessica Davenport is out for the season with a tibia stress fracture.

"Our mentality was play with the people that are here," Catchings said. "It started out with that mentality of we are going to play with whoever is here. But you asked some players that have played maybe 10, 15 minutes and now you are asking them to play 30-plus minutes. It's a big adjustment.

"For us it was about continuing to learn to play with one another and just continue to get better. Once we got that first win under our belt, it was like, ‘OK, we just have to continue to build off of that.' We just have to continue to get better. That is what we focus on, not necessarily, ‘We gotta win,' just we've got to get better every day of practice and every single game."

Catchings spent Tuesday evening in front of the television, as did thousands of others, to watch the ESPN documentary about Pat Summitt, "Pat XO."

The hour-long feature was part of the Nine for IX series and spotlights significant women in sports. Catchings cried when Pat Summitt got emotional while talking about having to step down as the head coach in 2012, eight months after she publicly revealed her diagnosis of early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type.

"I got emotional just thinking about what she has meant to so many and to myself first and foremost, the impact that she had on so many lives whether directly or indirectly," Catchings said. "Everybody that watched that - we were talking about it before practice - really got emotional."

Remarks from current head coach Holly Warlick were scattered throughout the documentary - she and assistant coach Dean Lockwood delivered poignant lines - and Catchings was happy that Warlick became Summitt's successor.

"The history with her starting out as a player, that was kind of cool, seeing that in the video," Catchings said. "And then being an assistant coach for all of those years behind Pat.

"I think even more so the loyalty that she showed to the program and to Pat, I felt like she really deserved the opportunity to step in and be the head coach."