Tamika Catchings chat session

Tamika Catchings (WNBA photo)

Tamika Catchings took the time to chat with Inside Tennessee before she begins preparations with the USA team and leaves for London. She fielded a range of questions from her future to Pat Summitt's retirement to Candace Parker's jersey. Go inside to read what the Lady Vol legend had to say.

Tamika Catchings had just completed practice and immersion in a cold whirlpool – she had a game the next day – and then made a phone call this week to Inside Tennessee and agreed to tackle a variety of questions, including a few submitted by Lady Vol fans.

Catchings is almost certain that London will be her last Olympics. She has two gold medals from 2004 and 2008 and wants to add a third in 2012.

How motivated are you for London?

"I am super motivated but I am like there every year that I've been," Catchings said. "The goal is to win a gold medal. The opportunities that I have been presented is something that I am so thankful for and to be a champion, for me, that is the motivation.

"Being able to represent your country is a dream come true."

When Catchings was asked how old she was, she playfully and repeatedly claimed that she didn't understand the question.

"What did you say?!" Catchings asked. "I'm 24."

That's her jersey number. Catchings will be 33 on July 21. That is why she thinks her third Olympics will be her final one.

"I am 99 percent sure that this is going to be it," Catchings said. "I am excited about that."

The Indiana Fever played Candace Parker and the Los Angeles Sparks on Thursday with the Sparks prevailing 77-74. Catchings led her team with 27 points and six boards while Parker had 19 points and seven rebounds.

How do you handle playing against someone, who is a also a friend, and then will be your teammate on the USA squad?

"It's like playing on an AAU Select team," Catchings said, referring to when high school players played with and against each other on assorted teams. "You put all that aside. When you're representing your whole country everyone has a lot of expectations to win a gold medal.

"Candace and I are really close. Whether we're playing with each other or against each other, we're friends at the end of the day."

Catchings is originally from Illinois – she played two years of high school there before moving to Texas – and despite their age difference, both players knew each other because of common roots. Parker is from Naperville, Ill., and sought out Catchings for advice on occasion.

"I played ball in Chicago and knew about her when she was young," Catchings said. "We hung out on the Olympic team together and having that time together we got a lot closer."

Parker made headlines recently with her appearance in ESPN's The Body issue in which the athletic form of men and women is celebrated with nude photos. In Parker's case, a basketball covers her chest. Catchings had heard about it in a phone call from her sister Tauja but had not yet seen the photos.

"Tauja asked me, ‘Is that Candace?' " Catchings said. "I said I have no idea."

Catchings said she rarely has time to keep up with media, especially during the season when her days and nights are consumed with basketball and her foundation, Catch the Stars.

Catchings is looking forward to wrapping up WNBA play this week and joining her USA teammates.

What is your timetable to cross the pond for London?

"On Saturday we will all get together in D.C. for practice," Catchings said. "Monday we actually play and then fly out afterwards for Manchester and Great Britain and then we'll go to Istanbul for a tournament and then we'll head to London after that."

The USA team, unlike some of its foes, has little time together on the court before the Games begin.

How does the national team adjust to that?

"The great thing that USA Basketball has done is keep your core group in place and build around it," Catchings said. "I think we've had the opportunity to play with each other and then we had our May training camp and we all went to Seattle. We're able to build off of that and not have to start brand new."

While Catchings expects London 2012 to be her final Olympics, she still has some basketball left in her. The WNBA season resumes in mid-August and Catchings has led her team deep in the playoffs with an appearance in the championship series in 2009.

The players don't have input into trades or drafts, and Catchings said she keeps her focus on the court.

"That is all done by the general managers and coaches. I find out everything from Twitter," Catchings said with a laugh.

Catchings doesn't have any interest in coaching – she said she lacks the patience for the job – but she would like to call the shots in the pros.

"I am looking at being a general manager whether it's in the WNBA or the NBA," Catchings said. "But that's down the road. … Being faith oriented sometimes the plans we set aren't the ones that he has for us."

What is one thing you would like to change about the WNBA?

"I would say from a marketing standpoint try and be consistent with our marketing and market the league for 12 months and not just the five months that we're playing and maybe one month on one end and one month on the other end," Catchings said.

Catchings will also head overseas to play after the WNBA season.

What are your winter plans as far as basketball and perhaps some time off the court?

"I've already signed a deal to go to China and play a little," Catchings said. "After that – it's a short season over there – I'll get back and rest my body a little bit and then get geared up for the WNBA season."

Those plans also include finding time for a trip to Knoxville.

"Hopefully I will get there at some point," said Catchings, noting she wanted to visit with Pat Summitt and support Holly Warlick in her first season as head coach of the Lady Vols.

"I am really excited for her," Catchings said. "I think it's going to be great. I think that she's going to do a great job as a head coach. I am looking forward to seeing how the ladies respond."

Catchings, like others in the long orange line of Lady Vols, reacted with a lot of emotion to the news last spring that Summitt was stepping away from the sideline and into an emeritus role for Tennessee.

"She is still going to be around," Catchings said. "That will be a great thing because she is not only a great coach and a great person, but she is the legacy of women's basketball. She is the person who really changed that program.

"Holly played for her and has coached with her for so many years. Being able to have that consistency as far as having Holly there, I think she will do a great job."

Catchings' playing days at Tennessee overlapped with Kyra Elzy, who went into coaching and has joined Warlick's staff as an assistant and recruiting coordinator after a stint in the same capacity at Kentucky under Matthew Mitchell, who was a graduate assistant under Summitt.

What was your reaction to Elzy returning to Tennessee?

"I am excited for Kyra," Catchings said. "I think Kyra is going to be great. I've followed her coaching career and I know Matthew was probably sick to lose her. I have watched her evolve and the way she sees the game and becoming one of those great assistants that other coaches are recruiting for their staff.

"I feel like it was a great move for Holly to bring somebody back that has played in the system."

A familiar face is on the bench in Indiana after Mickie DeMoss left Tennessee for the professional sideline. DeMoss was an assistant coach when Catchings played at Tennessee.

What has it been like to have DeMoss back on the bench?

"There is always a transition period, just like when you go from high school to college and then to the pros," Catchings said. "Yes, it's the same game that we're playing, but things are different. Player-coach relationships are different.

"I think Mickie is still in that transition period, and I think she is doing a good job."

When Catchings was being recruited out of Duncanville, Texas, she was one of the top players in the country, but the attention piled on her pales to what recruits receive now, especially with social media, text messages and the Internet.

Is there more scrutiny and contact now compared to what it was like when you were in high school?

"Definitely," Catchings said. "Everything was restricted to AAU tournaments. Coaches would come and visit practices and stuff. I felt like my mom and dad did a really good job of protecting me from that."

Catchings has been asked for advice at times from aspiring basketball players and their parents.

"One of things I always say is that's it's a business," Catchings said. "The tweets, Facebook, the text messages, the phone calls, there is so much that's involved. At the end of the day the child, whatever school they are picking, it needs to be somewhere that they want to go.

"So many people are pulling at them – coaches, parents, friends, teammates – in different directions and at the end of the day you're the one who is going to be going to the school for four years so it needs to be where it feels right and not necessarily somewhere that everyone else is wanting you to go to."

Catchings has played at the highest level in high school, college and the pros and has faced the best players the United States and the world has to offer.

Who is your favorite player to play against?

"I would say the person I learned the most from going against would have been Chamique," Catchings said, referring to her former college teammate Chamique Holdsclaw. "She is a player that can do a little bit of everything. Like Candace, another Tennessee product, has a knack for the ball and being able to play every position.

"With Mique I just remember how smooth and how easy she made it. You would play defense as hard as you can and she would do something and just kind of look at you, like, ‘Where were you?' "

The jerseys of Holdsclaw and Catchings are hanging in the rafters of Thompson-Boling Arena. Parker's No. 3 hasn't been issued to anyone since she left in 2008 with two national titles, a Wade Trophy and three All-American awards.

Is it time to get Parker's jersey up there, too?

"You already know what Candace has done for that program," Catchings said. "That is definitely not something that she needs to be worried about because that number will be up there.

"We all know it will be up there."

Since Parker left Tennessee she also has married and had a child, Lailaa, who turned three last May. Catchings, who has homes in Indianapolis, Florida and Texas, has been consumed with basketball and her foundation – which will continue long after her playing days end – but she would like to settle down and have a family.

"Little Tamikas? I hope," Catchings said. "I hope I get married and have kids. That's the plan."

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