Work in Sports
Catchings heads preseason team
Posted: Tuesday November 09, 1999 06:29 PM
NEW YORK (AP) -- Tamika Catchings, part of Chamique Holdsclaw's supporting cast during her first two seasons at Tennessee, stood on her own Tuesday as the top vote-getter on The Associated Press preseason All-America team in women's basketball.
Catchings was the only repeater from last year's preseason team and appeared on 43 of 45 ballots cast by a national media panel.
Tennessee's Semeka Randall also made the team, along with UCLA's Maylana Martin, Connecticut's Svetlana Abrosimova and Georgia's Kelly Miller. Abrosimova received 37 votes, Martin 36, Miller 25 and Randall 18.
Martin is the only senior among the five. The rest are juniors.
With Holdsclaw in the WNBA, the 6-foot-1 Catchings becomes the Lady Vols' critical player. Coach Pat Summitt thinks Catchings is ready for that role after she averaged 16.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.6 steals last season and shot 51 percent.
"Chamique's departure won't change Tamika or motivate her any differently," Summitt said. "She wants the ball and is willing to make big plays night in and night out. She's a fierce competitor and plays hard on every possession."
Catchings becomes the third player placed on the preseason team more than once. Holdsclaw was voted to the team three times and Connecticut's Kara Wolters twice. The AP began its preseason women's team in 1994.
This is the third time teammates have been preseason All-Americans. Holdsclaw and Catchings were on last season. Wolters and UConn teammate Jennifer Rizzotti made the 1995-96 team.
Martin returns for her final year, hoping to take UCLA a couple of steps farther than last season. The Bruins lost to Louisiana Tech in the finals of the NCAA West Regional.
A 6-3 forward who runs the court well, Martin led the Pac-10 in scoring (18.2) and was second in rebounding (9.4). She shot 54 percent and had a high of 38 points against Southern California.
"I would be shocked if she is not the first or second pick in the (WNBA) draft," UCLA coach Kathy Olivier said. "She is a very disciplined person and has done whatever it is she has needed to get done. She came in with goals and has achieved all but one. I don't see her settling for anything but what she wants."
Martin had back surgery last summer and was cleared for full-scale practice only last week, but she is expected to be ready for the Bruins' Nov. 20 opener.
Abrosimova, only four months past her 19th birthday, had to carry the load at Connecticut last season when injuries sidelined or slowed several key players. Versatile enough to score inside, on the perimeter or off the dribble, she led the Huskies in steals (2.7) and assists (3.7), was second in scoring (16.6) and became the first UConn sophomore to reach 1,000 career points.
"I don't think I've ever coached anybody who can do as many things as she can," Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said.
Such versatility is what Georgia coach Andy Landers likes about Miller, who plays alongside her twin, Coco. Kelly Miller averaged 18.5 points last season, with a high of 33 against Iowa State in the NCAA Mideast Regional finals. She also averaged six rebounds and 4.4 assists and shot 44 percent from 3-point range.
"Kelly Miller does so many things well that other people don't even think about," Landers said. "It amazes me. She takes care of so many things on the court that help our basketball team.
"If you could somehow create a statistic to measure those items -- smart plays -- Kelly would probably lead the entire country."
Randall is an energizer who sparks Tennessee with her emotion and quickness. She averaged 14.1 points last season, shot 51 percent and drew tough defensive assignments.
"She wants to win and is willing to do whatever it takes," Summitt said. "She'll stick her neck out for this team."