Tamika Catchings was recruited by the legendary Pat Summitt out high school, little did she know what lied ahead.
"People tell me I would never make it, people tell me I couldn't talk, people tell me I couldn't hear. I think sports is what helped me elevate to the next level," said Catchings.
Catchings became a collegiate national champion, a 10 time WNBA all-star, a league champion and a 4-time Olympic gold medalist, but maybe the thing she's most proud of is her foundation.
"That platform it's allowed me to reach out to different kids who will reach out to different kids and different groups and that's how you will be able to grow your impact," Catchings said.
All these accomplishments were made while navigating through her journey with a hearing impairment that she was diagnosed with at the age of three. Catchings said she came to grips with her hearing impairment during her freshman season at Tennessee.
"Up till then, like I was ashamed of it and wished that God didn't make me this way and I could fit in and be like everybody else," Catchings said. "But I really feel like when I made that transition and Pat made me see that one day your story will impact thousands maybe millions of people."
Tamika, what does it mean to join Pat Summitt as the only one with ties to the University of Tennessee to be inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame?
Catchings: "I need to go back and look at that list, that just can't be right. But I think it's an honor. We all know what Pat means to us."
Many consider Catchings to be the greatest player to ever wear the Lady Vols uniform. Pat Summitt would have a hard time arguing with that and when asked what Pat would think about Tamika joining her in the Hall of Fame, Catchings thought she might get a little emotional.
"I think that would be a tearful conversation. She would come in, she would have that smile and shake her head and her head leaned to the side a little bit," Catchings said. "And she would put her arm around me. She would just say Catch, in that drawl, Catch I'm so proud of you."
As previously announced, in light of the unique circumstance surrounding the Class of 2020, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Election Process Committee suspended the Direct Election Categories for one year with the exception of the International Committee. This year's distinguished class includes honorees from the North American committee, Women's Committee and International Committee. To be elected, North American and Women's Committee finalists must receive 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for election into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
The Class of 2020 includes 18-time NBA All-Star and five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant, 15-time NBA All-Star and three-time NBA Finals MVP Tim Duncan, 15-time NBA All-Star and nine-time NBA All-Defensive First Team selection Kevin Garnett, four-time National Coach of the Year Eddie Sutton, two-time NBA Champion coach Rudy Tomjanovich, 10-time WNBA All-Star and four-time Olympic gold medalist Tamika Catchings, three-time NCAA National Championship Coach of Baylor Kim Mulkey, five-time Division II National Coach of the Year Barbara Stevens and long-time FIBA executive Patrick Baumann.
"The Class of 2020 is undoubtedly one of the most historic of all time and the talent and social influence of these nine honorees is beyond measure," said John L. Doleva, President and CEO of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. "In 2020, the basketball community has suffered the unimaginable loss of iconic figures Commissioner David Stern and Kobe Bryant, as well as the game itself due to COVID-19. We have also banded together like never before in appreciation of the game and those who have made it the uniting force it is today. Today we thank the Class of 2020 for all they have done for the game of basketball and we look forward to celebrating them at Enshrinement in August."
The Class of 2020 Enshrinement festivities will begin at Mohegan Sun on Friday, August 28th with the newly-formatted Enshrinement Tip-Off Celebration and Awards Gala. The Class of 2020 and over 50 returning Hall of Famers will then journey to Springfield, Mass., for the annual celebratory events taking place at the newly-renovated Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and Springfield Symphony Hall on the 29th. The second day of events in Springfield will include a special community-focused Celebration Day on the 30th.
Catchings, who played for the Lady Vols from 1997-2001, is one of only two UT players to earn WBCA All-America accolades all four years of her career and was a four-time All-SEC recipient, including three times as a first-team honoree.
The 6-1 forward from Duncanville, Texas, was a two-time All-Final Four recipient; the 2001 ESPY Awards Women's Basketball Player of the Year; the 2000 Associated Press, WBCA, Naismith and U.S. Basketball Writers of America Player of the Year and the 1998 U.S. Basketball Writers of America and SEC Freshman of the Year. Catchings also was a three-time SEC All-Tournament Team member, and two-time NCAA All-Regional Tournament honoree and two-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll.
Catchings played a key role as Tennessee went 39-0 and won an NCAA title in 1998 and also helped the Lady Vols place second in 2000. Additionally, she was instrumental in the Big Orange winning four SEC regular-season championships and three tournament crowns.
In Lady Vol history, Catchings remains fourth in all-time scoring with 2,113 points and is sixth with 1,004 career rebounds. She is one of only two UT players to record 2,000 points and 1,000 caroms. Catchings continues to rank third in steals (311), fourth in career field goals (760) and free throws (471), and eighth in blocked shots (136). She also is tied for most games played in a season with 39.
Catchings played 15 seasons with the Indiana Fever, was named the 2011 WNBA MVP and led that franchise to the 2012 WNBA Championship, earning Finals MVP honors. Catchings was a 10-time WNBA All-Star, a 12-time All-WNBA Team selection, a five-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year and the 2002 WNBA Rookie of the Year. She holds the league's all-time steals career mark and now is employed by Indiana as vice president/Fever basketball operations.
Previously announced as a member of the 2020 induction class into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Catchings also won four consecutive Olympic gold medals with Team USA from 2002-2016, tying for the most golds ever won in women's basketball by an American woman and setting records for most Olympics participated in and most golds won by a Lady Vol.
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