2002 Training Camp: Ones to Watch
After the 2002 Draft, the first person that comes to most people's minds when they hear "WNBA rookie" is none other than Sue Bird. Although she has been called a "once in a lifetime" player, was the first-ever point guard to be selected No. 1 overall, and many have already predicted Bird to fly away with the Rookie of the Year award, it's just too early to be handing out the hardware. Besides, what about the third overall pick in the draft? No, not this year's draft -- LAST year's draft.
The Fever wanted Catchings and were willing to wait. Despite expectations of rejoining the team at the end of last season, Catchings experienced additional pain in early July and had to undergo a second surgery on torn cartilage. That was the end of Catchings' rookie season & or was it?
During the 2001 season, Catchings was never activated, never officially showed up on the roster other than on the injured list and never bounced a ball in a Fever uniform. What does that mean? It means that this year's rookie class of Sue Bird, Stacey Dales-Schuman, Swin Cash and the rest, just grew by one: Tamika Catchings.
"If there's a better rookie, I want to see it," Houston Comets coach Van Chancellor, also the current USA Basketball Women's Senior National team coach commented. "You would never know she was hurt. She's been the biggest surprise of (Team USA) training camp."
Catchings was invited by USA Basketball to spend "a few days" in spring training camp and ended up spending a few weeks. Even more impressive, Chancellor couldn't keep her out of the line-up. Before starting a single game for the Fever, Catchings was starting at power forward for Team USA during a March exhibition series. Prior to joining the National Team, Catchings played in a domestic women's league during the WNBA offseason for their Chicago squad. During one game, Catchings led her team to victory with 27 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, six steals and three blocks. What's more, those numbers weren't out of the ordinary for Catchings since returning to action.
The six-foot Catchings is expected to start at power forward, alongside fellow Tennessee alum and new Fever guard Nikki McCray, but will probably see some action at the small forward position as well. A tall order for a rookie joining a team that finished 10-22 last season and that is expected to be one of the most improved teams this season. But then again, this prospective Rookie of the Year seems to be full of surprises.
Check back soon for our veteran, team and coach to watch!