Tamika Catchings: Reaching for the stars - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Tamika Catchings: Reaching for the stars

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Tamika would like to play in one more Olympics. Tamika would like to play in one more Olympics.

Angela Cain/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - February is a month to celebrate Black History and the Olympics. Tamika Catchings is a two-time Olympian who some call one of the best women basketball players on the planet.

Indiana Fever star Tamika Catchings is a force on the court. The WNBA player is the Indiana Fever's first 2,000 point scorer, and she has been the Rookie of the Year, three-time defensive player of the Year and a six-time WNBA Allstar.

"The thing that makes me such a force on the court is my love for the game. I really enjoy being out there," she said.

Tamika's powerful presence helped propel the Indiana Fever to their first Eastern Conference Championship last season.

"It was a great opportunity. The fans were phenomenal," she said.

She is ready to go all the way "and win a WNBA championship, We made it so far last year, but I feel like this year could really, truly be our year."

Friends and colleagues say one word best describes Tamika: relentless!

"I'm a fighter. I'm passionate; everything I do I go at it 100 percent," she said.

That drive has taken her to the Olympics twice with the USA Women's Basketball team, winning two gold medals.

"I want to play in one more Olympics," she said.

Tamika's incredible, hard-earned career path was mapped out in junior high school.

"I didn't just wake up one day and say, 'I want to be a professional basketball player. Here I am, this WNBA player.' It was something that I knew I wanted to do when I was in seventh grade. I wanted to be a professional basketball player and I worked hard and hard and hard every single day," she said.

From birth, Tamika and her older brother and sister had basketball in their blood, inspired by their father Harvey Catchings, an 11-year NBA veteran.

"We were always going around to my dad's games, going to my dad's practices," said Tamika.

But her path to the court was paved with pain, childhood taunting for wearing braces, glasses, and "I grew up with a hearing problem. I am not deaf, but I wear hearing aids and along with the hearing problem, most people have a speech problem, so for me growing up it wasn't easy because I had the big hearing aids, the ones that go behind the ears, so everybody can see, and a lot of kids made fun of me for that."

"My Mom and dad, when I would come home crying every day they were the ones who wiped my tears away," she said.

They taught a young Tamika to love herself and ignore the teasing by focusing on her goals, athletics and academics "because in order to get anywhere in life, you have to set goals."

That's a message Tamika shares with central Indiana kids year-round at her basketball camps, fitness clinics and eight-week mentoring programs.

"What is your goal in school, what is your goal with your attitude, what is your goal with your brothers and sisters, what is your goal with your family?" Those are the kinds of questions kids are asked.

Tamika spends countless hours with kids who are underprivileged, giving them time, Christmas gifts, school supplies and college scholarships all through her "Catch the Stars Foundation."

"I do it because I truly am passionate about making a difference in these kids' lives," she said.

Tamika is their role model - both an athlete and a scholar - with a Bachelor's Degree, a Master's Degree and a legacy that is not all about basketball.

"I would definitely want people to talk about my faith and talk about the light that I walk in," she said. "Somebody that was always smiling, somebody that was passionate."

That legacy is one she hopes to leave, some day, for her kids.

"I do see a family, definitely, and I want to get married and my husband is gonna be awesome, of course," she said.

Tamika is turning a new page to inspire kids - some who may have been teased like her as a child. This spring, she'll release a new book titled Dreams are for Catching - Discovering the Star in You.

Catch the Stars - More on Tamika and her community foundation.

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