KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT/SUBMITTED) -- Tamika Catchings, Lady Vol hoops legend, U.S. Olympic gold medalist and current member of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever, has been chosen as the University of Tennessee’s winner of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Volunteer of the Year.
Catchings, a four-time All-American on the hardwood at Tennessee from 1997 to 2001, earned a bachelor’s degree in sport management in 2001 and added a master’s in May 2005, garnering SEC Academic Honor Roll recognition along the way.
As is the case with the legion of players who’ve worn the Orange and White of Tennessee, Catchings’ pursuit of excellence and efforts to make an impact didn’t stop on the court or in the classroom. It extended into the community, as well, with participation in service projects geared toward helping others in need.
The 6-foot-2 Catchings, who came to Tennessee from Duncanville, Texas, embraced the idea of giving back to those around her as a Lady Vol, earning membership on the SEC’s Community Service Team in 2000. She has made service to her fellow man a priority ever since.
A member of the WNBA’s franchise in Indianapolis, Catchings began her Catch The Stars Foundation in 2004 to help under-privileged youth in Central Indiana. That organization has grown to 1,500, with Catchings trying to provide a positive image and inspiration to the children in her foundation and beyond.
The Catch the Stars Foundation offers programs such as free basketball clinics and camps. The camps teach disadvantaged youths the importance of nutrition and health along with ball handling skills. Academic success also is promoted, and there is a scholarship program that involves tutoring, mentoring, and a giveaway of backpacks and school supplies. Along with running the Catch the Stars Foundation, Catchings is also a member of the Women’s Sports Foundation Board of Trustees, is the current president of the WNBA Players Association and is involved in the selection process of the WBCA’s Good Works Team.
“One of the main things I took away from being under Coach Summitt was just about being great women overall,” Catchings said during an interview. “She didn’t just focus on one aspect, she focused on what we did on the court, what we did off the court, and what we did in our community to help others. That’s another reason why I’m so passionate in helping our youth.”
Like Catchings, Holly Warlick played basketball at Tennessee under the direction of Summitt. Warlick later became an assistant coach for the NCAA’s all-time winningest head coach and was named Summitt’s successor two year ago when early-onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type, brought an early end to a hall of fame career. Warlick has continued the legacy of high expectations in all phases of her players’ lives.
Warlick’s 2013-14 squad is ranked No. 6 nationally and is preparing to begin play in the SEC Tournament. Before it starts playing basketball on Friday, however, the team will travel to the Atlanta area and spend some time doing community service on Thursday afternoon. They will pay a visit to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Emory University.
That visit is an example of the types of efforts the Tennessee women’s team makes during the course of the year. The Lady Vols also are active with Habitat for Humanity, participate in the annual Hoops for Hope event for children with Down Syndrome and sing to and visit with residents at Shannondale Nursing Home. They also are involved with Race for the Cure, Play 4Kay, reading in area schools and many other initiatives.
It’s just part of being a Lady Vol and what’s thought of as the right thing to do. Summitt, Warlick and Catchings wouldn’t have it any other way.