Honors, outreach for Tamika Catchings

Tamika Catchings

Tamika Catchings will be honored Thursday in Knoxville while playing basketball in Indianapolis. Go inside with InsideTennessee for the latest honor and outreach efforts of the former Lady Vol.

Tamika Catchings spent Wednesday calling assorted media members to talk about her efforts to raise awareness about diabetes. The former Lady Vol, who runs her own foundation at Catch the Stars, said becoming an advocate for health and fitness was a natural tie-in.

Catchings is the WNBA's representative for Dribble to Stop Diabetes, which increases awareness of physical activity and good eating habits to improve health.

Catchings helped the cause last season and re-upped because of "the direct correlation that it has with my foundation, and you guys know how passionate I am about helping kids," she said. "It stands for being active and leading a healthy lifestyle and being able to raise awareness for diabetes."

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The program encourages children to make healthy choices at the table and get moving.

"All of that," Catchings said.

Catchings will be honored Thursday in Knoxville by the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame, along with Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb of Alcoa; San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley, who played at Tennessee; and Los Angeles Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, who was an All-American first baseman/pitcher for the Vols.

Catchings will receive the Pat Summitt Ignite Greatness Award. Summitt was the initial recipient and then the award was named for her. Its focus is on someone who can "ignite greatness," thus Summitt and Catchings are natural selections for the honor.

"I think anytime you can get an award that exemplifies Pat, it's exciting," Catchings said. "It's a huge honor, and I wish I could be there to accept the award, but I can't. I am really excited about the honor."

Catchings will deliver her speech and appreciation via a video presentation because Indiana plays Minnesota – a rematch of the WNBA championship series – at noon in Indianapolis. Catchings, the WNBA's reigning Finals MVP, led the Fever to the title last season.

The Fever has been beset by injuries this season – Catchings even had to take a turn at point guard, the first time she handled that position since high school. Does she have a new appreciation for point guards?

"I do. I do," she said. "I haven't gotten cramps in my legs like that in a long time."

Catchings, an All-American forward at Tennessee, never had to take the ball for the Lady Vols.

"Not at Tennessee. We had great point guards. Ace. K.J. And KLaw. And McDivitt," Catchings said, referring to Kristen Clement, Kellie Jolly, Kara Lawson and April McDivitt.

Catchings watched the "Pat XO" documentary on ESPN on Tuesday and joined Lady Vol fans in getting emotional when Summitt cried about having to stop coaching. Catchings' nephew was watching with her and had to ask if he aunt was OK, a reaction Lady Vol fans can certainly understand.

"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 this morning before practice – really got emotional.

"It's crazy because we know her – we actually know her so it's not like Pat from afar or you're watching somebody that you just sort of look up to – and Pat has been there for you through thick and thin and to see her when she started crying, it was one of those moments …

"You don't really know where the road leads to, and we always have known what Pat stood for, we always knew what to expect and what was going to happen and how hard she was going to be on us and now we don't know. The unknown is almost scarier than what you really know."

Catchings also enjoyed the lighter moments of the documentary, and she cackled about Mickie DeMoss' hair barrette. DeMoss was an assistant at Tennessee when Catchings played and is now on the bench with the Fever.

"Man, man, man," Catchings said. "I put a tweet out there for Holly (Warlick) and Mickie. I can't believe, not only the hair barrette, but even some of the outfits that she had on. I was like, ‘Really?'

"We were saying Holly was the hip one, and we felt like she should have done a better job of helping Mickie."

Catchings is thrilled with the job Holly Warlick has done as a head coach and saluted the decision to hire her to succeed Summitt. Warlick won the SEC in her first campaign and led the Lady Vols to the Elite Eight despite a series of injuries that sidelined three starters over the course of the season.

"I felt like she really deserved the opportunity to step in and be the head coach," Catchings said. "She did a really good job this year."

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