Athlete Spotlight - Nazr Mohammed

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" That's three in a row for the Tennessee Lady Volunteers and two of the last three for the Kentucky Wildcats. The days of the Big Ten - Pac Ten - ACC exclusive triangle are gone for good. "
  - Vol Mako Shark

Catchings has shown glimpses of Holdsclaw-like ability.    (Patrick Murphy-Racey)

Tamika Catchings,

Class: Freshman   Position: Forward

Height: 6'1"

Hometown: Duncanville, Texas

High School: Duncanville

Vital Stats: 18.1 points per game, 8.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.6 blocks, 2.5 steals, 53.8% field goals

by Dana Gelin

It didn't take long for Tennessee coach Pat Summitt to make an amazing discovery about one of her freshmen, Tamika Catchings. Practice had just started last fall when Summitt told Catchings—who, mind you, had come to Tennessee as one of the country's top few recruits—"You're better than I thought you were."

And Catchings has only improved. In the team's first exhibition, she led all scorers with 34 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. A regular starter all season, she averages 18.1 points and 8.1 rebounds, second on the team only to junior All-America Chamique Holdsclaw, the player with whom Catchings is often compared. "Her style reminds me a lot of Chamique's," Summitt says.

After a January win over Arkansas in which Holdsclaw scored 28 and Catchings added 24, even Holdsclaw was impressed. "When both of us are hitting," she said, "it's awesome." Arkansas coach Gary Blair was in awe, too. "We weren't close to guarding Catchings," he said after Tennessee's 88-58 win. "She's a great player and so is Holdsclaw."

Later that month, Catchings scored 35 points against DePaul on 14-of-18 shooting, then pumped in 22 against Vanderbilt to earn SEC Player of the Week honors. The only other UT freshman ever to be so named? Holdsclaw, of course.

Despite the many similarities, Catchings is actually a better outside shooter than Holdsclaw (she has made a team-high 40 three-pointers), and she led the Vols in free throw makes and attempts entering the regional final. Catchings was voted SEC Freshman of the Year, following in Holdsclaw's path yet again.

For her part, Catchings dubs her sister, Tauja, a sophomore forward at Illinois, "the best player in the world." The two use e-mail to keep in close contact and shared the court in December when Tennessee beat Illinois 78-68.

Born 21 months apart, the Catchings sisters played together at Stevenson High outside Chicago until 1995, when Tamika moved to Texas with their mother, Wanda. Tauja stayed in Chicago with their father, Harvey, who played 11 years in the NBA.

Tamika, who had earned Miss Basketball honors in Illinois as a sophomore, earned the Texas title in her senior year at Duncanville. There, she once registered a quintuple-double: 25 points, 18 rebounds, 11 assists, 10 steals and 10 blocked shots. Duncanville won the Texas 5A championship in 1997, finishing 40-0. Thus, Catchings hasn't lost a game in two seasons. With the way she's playing, the winning could stretch on.

"She only has two speeds," Summitt says. "Fast and faster."

Her career is progressing at the same pace.

Other Spotlights
March 22: Jeff Sheppard, Kentucky
March 21: Khalid El-Amin, Connecticut
March 20: Andre Miller, Utah; Alisa Burras, Louisiana Tech
March 19: Brian Cardinal, Purdue
March 18: Tim Young, Stanford
March 17: Sarunas Jasikevicius, Maryland; Adia Barnes, Arizona
March 16: Mateen Cleaves, Michigan State; Murriel Page, Florida
March 15: Jason Hart, Syracuse
March 14: Kris Johnson, UCLA
March 13: Lee Nailon, Texas Christian
March 12: Brian Earl, Princeton
March 11: Tyrone Weeks, Massachusetts
March 10: Brett Robisch, Oklahoma St.
March 9: Larry Hughes, Saint Louis

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