Before ever making it to the WNBA, many current players
once starred on a different basketball stage. For them, the NCAA Tournament holds
a special place in their hearts. Even now, they remain fans of the college game.
They watch the Tournament and track the players who might someday be their teammates
and opponents in the WNBA. Whether they were first discovered by the national
media, overcame adversity, or even won National Championship, several of these
players share their Tournament thoughts, feelings and special memories.
Ruth Riley Ė University of
Notre Dame, Class of 2001
"Itís great. There is so much excitement surrounding
the Final Four and womenís basketball on the collegiate level. It shows just how
far womenís collegiate athletics has come. Itís fun to be a part of that. It seems
like it was some time ago, but when I go back to Notre Dame, it doesnít seem like
that long ago."
"It was very exciting to make it to the Final Four in 2001. A lot of players donít
get that opportunity. For us, as seniors, to go out on top, that was the best
way to end my collegiate career."
Kara Lawson Ė University of
Tennessee, Class of 2003
"Itís special. To play in the Final Four and
to have the opportunity to share that with your teammates, your family and friends,
itís really special. I love the NCAA Tournament because itís do-or-die. Any team
on any given night has the opportunity to win. But what makes it so tough is to
win six single-elimination games, a format that is so unique in sports. In professional
sports, there are series, so you have mulligans, the opportunity to have a bad
game and still win the series, but you donít get that in the Tournament. It is
really fun and Iím excited to watch it this year and hopefully my old teammates
will get it done."
2003: "If I could pick one moment, it was that Gwen Jackson and I got to play
our last game in our arena to advance to the Final Four. It was pretty neat to
cut down the nets to go to the Final Four on your own home court, the court you
played on for four years. That was probably my favorite."
Becky Hammon Ė Colorado State
University, Class of 1999
Favorite Moment: "Getting Colorado State
to the Sweet 16 had been a goal of ours ever since we were freshmen. When I first
got there, we had hardly ever had a winning season. We had never won a conference
championship, we hadnít done anything. We had a great class, and by the time we
were seniors, we were selling out our arena, going to the NCAA tournament. It
was an amazing experience. We sold out a 9000-seat arena for the last half of
our season which was awesome. When you talk about something that has never been
done at a school before, it is always special to be a part of the first group
to accomplish it. There can only be one first time and thatís how it was, and
there may never be another group like that at CSU, just because it has been done
before now. The pioneersÖ but now I hope they can get the program back on track
and find its winning ways again, crack that Top 25, make runs in the NCAA tournament."
Cash Ė University of Connecticut, Class of 2002
"Everyone should go
to college and experience the NCAA Tournament because itís one of the greatest
things that you can participate in. It definitely prepares you for the next level,
especially the crowd, the atmosphere and just the excitement of it all. I would
never have traded my college years to turn pro earlier because it was so much
fun at the Final Four with my friends and family. It was something that I will
have memories about for a long time. I miss my college experience, but I understand
that with growth comes movement and that means moving on and taking on new phases
of my life. Iím not sad about it but I do think about it sometimes."
Favorite Moment: "2002 doesnít seem like that long ago. Anytime you win
a Championship, it sticks in your head for a long time."
Tamika Catchings Ė University
of Tennessee, Class of 2001
Favorite Moment: "The Regional Finals
in 2001. It was such a weird experience. I got hurt early, but I knew I wasnít
out for the game. When it comes to basketball, playing in big games, no matter
what happens, Iím going to try and get back. It would have had to be that something
was broken, but even then I might still have tried to tape it up and go out there.
I hate losing, so going down in that game, I could kind of hear what was going
on in the background and the crowd, thinking to myself and telling the trainer
that I had to get back out there. Nothing was going to keep me out of this game.
Being on the court for me is like a safe-zone. Anything goes and itís just so
Cooper Ė University of Southern California, Class of 1986
has definitely changed since Iíve been there. The attention that the Final Four
gets now is tremendous. Sold-out games, the crowds are great, and all of the intensity
of the game itself is on a totally different level than when I played. It shows
how womenís basketball and its fan base is growing, and I enjoy being around it.
That atmosphere is tremendous and itís definitely something you want to be a part
of all the time whether youíre playing or just a fan coming to see it."
Favorite Moment: "Our first championship. I hit the shot that put us in
the lead over Louisiana Tech and then I took a charge. Now you have to know that
I am not a defensive specialist, but I took a charge that helped us win the game.
That is my favorite NCAA moment, though that was a long time ago. I am old."
Whalen Ė University of Minnesota, Class of 2004
"My favorite NCAA
Tournament memory was going to the Final Four last year. Beating Duke to win the
regional, the whole celebration afterwards was great. It was crazy. That whole
night was great. Everyone was excited and hyped up. A lot of fun."