Catchings promotes diabetes awareness

Tamika Catchings is lending her voice to diabetes awareness in conjunction with the WNBA and spoke to Inside Tennessee today about why the topic is important to her. The former Lady Vol also talked about Pat Summitt, Mickie DeMoss, Kyra Elzy and her plans after basketball.

The WNBA, NBA and its development offshoot D-League, have joined teams to raise awareness about diabetes. The initiative is also being done in conjunction with the American Diabetes Association (CLICK HERE), and Sanofi US, a global health-care company, (CLICK HERE).

Tamika Catchings is the "campaign ambassador" for the WNBA and a video with the former Tennessee All-American can be viewed by CLICKING HERE.

The official website, called Dribble to Stop Diabetes can be viewed by CLICKING HERE.

"The great thing about the website is that people can take the risk assessment, and you can watch the PSA (public service announcement)," Catchings said. "The main thing is it is going to draw attention.

"Everybody is talking about basketball (the WNBA season opens soon; the NBA has started its playoffs) so Dribble to Stop Diabetes is able to knock out two things at once."

Catchings, who also runs her own foundation called "Catchin24" – it can be viewed by CLICKING HERE – and is active in events that help children, joined this latest cause because of family connections.

"One of my aunts has diabetes and my nephew's brother," Catchings said. "I wanted to get involved because I wanted to learn more. I am definitely trying to help out the cause.

"There are 26 million Americans that have diabetes and seven million of those don't even know that they have it. If we push this a little bit more and we can get it in the news and we can get people involved, it will help make people aware of what is going on and that is what we are trying to do here."

Catchings has always been willing to help the WNBA with community outreach. Her foundation has created educational opportunities for at-risk children, and she runs basketball camps to teach youngsters. The former Tennessee standout – her No. 24 jersey is retired and hanging in the rafters – remains one of the best players in the world and will play in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

She has managed to find a balance between staying at the top of her game and giving back to those who follow the sport. Catchings said one voice always remains in her head when she makes these decisions.

"For me personally you've got to think about the legacy of Pat Summitt and the things she made us aware of and being in the community was one of those things," Catchings said.

Catchings is hearing-impaired but didn't wear her hearing aid in high school or her first year at Tennessee because she had been ridiculed as a child and was embarrassed by it. Summitt told her she could set the example now for other children, who would look up to Catchings and not be ashamed to wear one.

"I remember when she sat me down as a freshman and got me back into wearing my hearing aid," Catchings said. "One of the things that she talked about was the impact I would have on people in my collegiate career and going into the professional work.

"It would give me the opportunity to use every single platform that I am on and being able to help so many kids."

Catchings spoke to Inside Tennessee by phone on Wednesday from Indiana, where she is training camp for the Fever. The reigning WNBA MVP is seeking her first league championship and was excited about the start of the season.

She also discussed Summitt, former Lady Vol Assistant Coach Mickie DeMoss joining the Fever, former teammate Kyra Elzy returning to the Lady Vols and her future after basketball.

Summitt announced last month that she would become head coach emeritus of the Lady Vols basketball program and Holly Warlick, her longtime assistant, would take over. Summitt revealed last August that she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia. She coached a final season and created a foundation with her son Tyler Summitt to raise awareness and funds.

"I've had the opportunity to talk to her and the thing about it is Pat is still so motivated," Catchings said. "She is still like, ‘ Hey, we are going to fight this and fight and fight.'

"She is still going to be around and the impact that she has on these ladies, it's the same thing. One thing that Pat taught me personally is to be a great leader overall, on the court, off the court, in my community."

On the same day the news came that Summitt was stepping aside as head coach, it was announced that Tyler Summitt would become an assistant coach for the Marquette women's basketball program. Tyler was still in elementary school when Catchings played for Tennessee.

"That is awesome," Catchings said. "When I was there (earlier this year) he was talking about getting a GA (graduate assistant) job but for him to get the assistant job at Marquette, that was awesome.

"Everybody was like, ‘Why didn't he just stay at Tennessee?' I was like, ‘You have to get out from underneath your mom and get out and experience the world.' I am excited for him."

DeMoss, who was an assistant at Tennessee when Catchings played and had stints at Kentucky and Texas before returning to the Lady Vols for the 2010-11 season, announced last month that she was fulfilling a desire to coach in the pros and joined Coach Lin Dunn's staff with the Fever.

"She just wants to follow me. She just wants to be where I'm at," Catchings said with a huge laugh. "I am excited to have Mickie, and I think that she will do well.

"We've had three days of practice. Today is our fourth day. She's done a great job. And with Mickie we're having a good time."

Catchings is the reigning MVP of the WNBA but the hardware she wants is a league title.

"I am excited that training camp is started," Catchings said. "I am ready to get the team situated so that we can get out there and focus on building our team and getting better every single game."

Catchings had a full slate of media interviews and then practice in what would be a busy day. She uses Summitt's method to stay organized.

"A good calendar, everything color-coded," Catchings said. "When you believe in something like I do, especially with this cause and being a part of dribble to stop diabetes and living an active lifestyle and watching what I eat now, it makes it easier to do these things.

"It makes it easier to support a cause. It makes it easier to do what I do. I love playing basketball and my foundation. It makes it easier when it's something that affects you."

Elzy, a former teammate of Catchings and the former associate head coach at Kentucky, is returning to Tennessee to join Warlick's staff with Dean Lockwood, who will remain with the Lady Vols on the sideline.

"I am excited for Kyra. I am excited for Holly and Dean," Catchings said. "I think it is going to be a great opportunity. They have great chemistry.

"She's got to come back to Tennessee where she started her collegiate career."

Catchings has hosted basketball camps to teach the game, so does she have any interest in coaching?

"No," Catchings said emphatically and without hesitation.

She wants to remain on the pro side and be a general manager in the WNBA or NBA.

"My patience on the court?" Catchings said, indicating she had none. "I like doing my camps because I am able to impact a lot of kids at once in a three-day span. But imagine being around the same players for a whole season, I couldn't do it.

"If they're not listening … Pat had a lot of patience with us just thinking back. But how would I respond to these situations I just don't know so I might as well just stay with the older players."

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