Fever's Douglas, White Have Fond Memories of Days in IHSAA

By Wheat Hotchkiss | March 6, 2014

This Saturday, the girls on the eight best high school basketball teams in Indiana will lay everything on the line as they compete for a championship in the IHSAA State Finals at the Hulman Center in Terre Haute.

Two prominent members of the Indiana Fever organization know firsthand what it means to compete in high school basketball in the state of Indiana. Fever guard Katie Douglas and associate head coach Stephanie White both starred in the state in the 1990s before moving on to Purdue and then the WNBA.

Douglas, a four-time WNBA All-Star, starred at Perry Meridian High School, where she was third team Parade All-American and runner-up for Miss Basketball as a senior in 1997.

White, who played five WNBA seasons before moving into coaching, had an iconic career at Seeger Memorial High School, averaging 36.9 points and 13.1 rebounds per game her senior year (1995), when she was named Miss Basketball and national player of the year. White’s 2,869 career points rank second all-time behind only Shanna Zolman (3,085).

Long before they went on to prolific collegiate and professional careers – winning an NCAA championship together at Purdue in 1999 and a WNBA title with the Fever in 2012 – Douglas and White were competing on the high school hardwoods of the Hoosier State. Growing up in Indiana, they both felt an added mystique to playing high school basketball in a state with such a storied history.

“I feel like the VHS was in of 'Hoosiers' at a very early age,” Douglas recalled. “I watched that and had so many memories about Indiana basketball and Indiana tradition.

“Back when I was playing, we had small gymnasiums that were pretty full and just the anticipation and the energy you could feel in an Indiana gymnasium when I played was a tremendous feeling.”

White and Douglas’ high school careers came in the last years of single-class basketball. The IHSAA didn’t institute the multi-class system until the year after Douglas graduated from Perry Meridian. For all their accomplishments, neither White nor Douglas ever experienced the joy of winning a state championship – a testament to the high-level of competition in Indiana.

Still, both have plenty of fond memories from their days in the IHSAA, with White leading Seeger to four consecutive Regional titles and Douglas captaining Perry Meridian to the school’s first Regional championship in 21 years.

When White and Douglas were playing high school basketball, playing professionally wasn’t even something they considered a possibility. The WNBA’s first season tipped off the summer after Douglas’ senior year at Perry Meridian, when White was already two years into her career at Purdue. Douglas said her sole focus in high school was to get a college scholarship so that she could continue playing the game she loves for four more years without burdening her parents financially.

But the WNBA came along at just the right time for both players, allowing them the opportunity to grow the sport and help inspire the next generation of Indiana high school basketball stars.

White was drafted by the Charlotte Sting in 1999. When Indiana was awarded an expansion franchise in 2000, the team acquired White in a draft-night trade, giving the Fever a marquee face with local ties for their inaugural season. White played four seasons with the Fever before retiring in 2003. She served as an assistant coach with the Chicago Sky from 2007-10 and joined Lin Dunn’s Fever staff in 2011.

Douglas has spent 13 seasons in the WNBA since being drafted by the Orlando Miracle in 2001. The Fever traded for Douglas prior to the 2008 season. The hometown girl is a four-time All-WNBA selection and a prominent presence on the WNBA’s career charts (she’s ninth all-time in points and fifth in steals and 3-pointers made).

There is no question that the popularity of women’s basketball has grown tremendously in the 15 years since the Fever arrived in Indianapolis. So many high school girls like those competing in Saturday’s State Finals at Terre Haute now dream of stepping onto the court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in a WNBA uniform.

So it’s fitting that this year the Fever and the Pacers have agreed to become presenting partners of the IHSAA girls and boys basketball state tournaments. For Douglas and White, it’s extra special to be involved with sponsoring an event that they themselves once took part in.

“I’m definitely glad to be a part of the Fever and the Pacers and to partner with them to sponsor such a great tradition,” Douglas said. “I mean, Indiana basketball – you go around anywhere in this country and strangers from all over, basketball kind of resonates with anybody that has no prior knowledge about Indiana. They know about our tradition.”

When those eight teams take the floor Saturday night to compete for a state championship, they’ll be writing the latest chapter in the storied history of Indiana high school state basketball, chasing a dream that eluded even some of the state’s all-time greats, like White and Douglas.

If they need any last-minute advice, Douglas has a simple suggestion:

“Have a lot of fun. Do the best you can and try to soak it up, because it’s something you should definitely not take for granted.”