Katie Douglas’ homecoming: Indiana Fever practice at star’s high school
By Sam Rogian
INDIANAPOLIS (June 3, 2011)—Author Thomas Wolfe once wrote that you can’t go home again.
The Indiana Fever’s Katie Douglas proved that theory wrong.
The Fever held a public practice Thursday evening at Douglas’ alma mater, Perry Meridian High School (PMHS), on the south side of Indianapolis, Ind. before an enthusiastic crowd that included the WNBA All-Star’s former coaches, teachers, friends and family.
Audience members paid $15 each for tickets, which benefited charities such as Heather’s Voice, Riley’s Children Foundation, the Breast Cancer Patient’s Emergency Fund, Schools 4 Schools, and the PMHS Athletic Department.
The event price also included a complimentary ticket to any Fever game at Conseco Fieldhouse in June.
“It’s great to be back-- just stepping into this gym, pulling into this parking lot,” Douglas said. “I’ve had so many great memories; so many friendships were built here that still continue in my life, and great basketball memories as well.”
Fans enjoyed viewing the Fever run through drills and scrimmage each other for about an hour. After that, the team played a game of ‘knockout’ with members of the PMHS girls varsity basketball team.
Door prizes were awarded and a silent auction was held for Fever memorabilia, including a Douglas-signed basketball and jersey.
Indiana mascot Freddy Fever helped entertain the crowd. Douglas topped things off with a question-and-answer session before the captive audience.
Fever coach Lin Dunn was pleased with the turnout and said it was a great experience to entertain the loyal fans at Douglas’ old haunt before Indiana opens its season this Saturday at 7 p.m. when it hosts the Chicago Sky.
“I’m surprised they haven’t changed the name of the school to Katie Douglas High School,” Dunn said with a laugh.
Douglas was flush with memories leading into Thursday’s event. She said the person that made the biggest impact in her life at PMHS was her now-retired accounting teacher Leynece Powers, who also taught Douglas’ three siblings
“(Powers) just became a great family friend, and definitely now someone I’m in (daily) contact with,” Douglas said. “(She’s) somebody that… mentors me, is a like a mother figure that I need, that I can go to at any time.
“She was a great teacher. (She) definitely had me on the right path, and I look towards her every day of my life.”
Physical Education teacher Jill Brunic was on hand for the traveling practice, and jokingly said Douglas’ effort has improved since her days in gym class.
“I gotta’ be honest, she’s worked a lot harder since she left Perry Meridian than when she was in my P.E. class,” Brunic said.
Brunic has followed Douglas’ career since she left for Purdue where she won an NCAA championship, through her time with the Connecticut Sun, then ultimately with the Fever.
“The Perry Meridian Falcon family has really followed her and it’s just great to have her back in today’s gym for a special preseason practice,” she said.
Douglas’ fondest memory from high school was playing in the semi-state round of the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) Tournament in 1997, her senior year.
Douglas said she has an enlarged picture of the crowded Southport Fieldhouse from that day.
“It was a sold-out thing,” she said. “The fire marshal was turning (people) away. It was just so crazy how many people, and the township and the public just rallied around our team.”
Douglas holds that day dear despite the fact the Falcons were eliminated from the tournament during the day’s second game.
“We won the first game,” she said. “That was when they played two games in one day. It was back in the good, old Indiana High School basketball days.”
A Coach’s Player
Mike Armstrong was Douglas’ high-school coach and still heads up PMHS’ varsity team.
“Katie was a joy to coach,” Armstrong said. “She was a team-oriented player first, and an individual-oriented player second.
“She was a very hard worker; great work ethic. And, when those kind of people are your best players, then you really have a chance to succeed.”
Although Armstrong couldn’t recall Douglas’ high-school statistics, he said the 1997 Indiana Miss Basketball runner-up was a special player.
“Katie always had this knack to make the play that had to be made, whether it was her play or not,” he said.
Armstrong recounted the time when Douglas made three 3-pointers at the end of a game to win the Marion County Tournament, even though she wasn’t known for her perimeter shooting then.
Douglas has always played tough defense, he said.
“She also had this uncanny knack just to let people drive by her so she could block the shot from behind,” Armstrong said. “(It’s) something you wouldn’t teach somebody to do, but she was very good at.”
Although Douglas graduated from Perry Meridian 14 years ago, her impact is still felt to this day.
“I tell people all the time- Katie’s kind of the gift that keeps on giving,” Armstrong said. “When you pick up the paper everyday and they talk about Katie Douglas, it’s always followed by ‘Perry Meridian High School.’
“So, I mean Katie continues to inspire the kids from Perry Township to play basketball. And, she continues to have a positive influence on the basketball program here.“
Many of the current PMHS girls varsity players said Douglas is an example for them to this day.
“She’s definitely a role model for students that go to Perry Meridian,” said junior Aspen Lovejoy. “We’re not a big school… If Katie can come from Perry Meridian, I think any of us can go anywhere.”
Senior Chelsi Carter appreciated Douglas and the Fever holding the practice at PMHS.
“I think we’re really lucky to have the opportunity for her to come back to Perry Meridian and help support our school,” Carter said.
Happy at Home
Douglas smiled as she signed every autograph and took pictures with fans before leaving PMHS Thursday night.
With most WNBA players also playing professionally in Europe during the offseason, Douglas said she was fortunate to even play for her hometown team each summer.
“It’s just a great thing,” she said. “I tell my teammates everyday how lucky and how blessed I am to be able to be back home. We finish practice and I can go spend time with my family.
“I’m just so fortunate to be a part of this franchise.”