Last year GladiatHers™ got a pretty wonderful opportunity to sit down with living basketball legend Tamika Catchings following her announcement that she would be retiring after the 2016 WNBA season. Outside of reflecting on her retirement and career, Tamika talked to us about her longstanding participation in the AllState WBCA Good Works Team®, a program that recognizes basketball student-athletes who give back to their communities through community service. Last week AllState announced the names of the members of this year’s Team, so Tamika is back to sit with Gladiathers.com to share about the new team and her experience selecting the ladies. Check out what she had to say:
Thanks for sitting down with Gladiathers.com again. We’re really exciting to learn more about The AllState WBCA Good Works Team®. What was it like trying to narrow the list of nominees down to the winning student-athletes?
Well, thank God it’s not just me! We had a record setting 103 nominations from schools across the nation. So there were a lot of great student-athletes to choose from. The Team is composed of 10 student-athletes who play college basketball. We were responsible for choosing 5 NCAA Division I student-athletes and 5 student-athletes from NCAA Divisions II and III and the NAIA. I went through some and there were about six or seven other people who also reviewed submissions. So we were able to do it as a team. The really awesome and tough thing is that we had such a good group to choose from, so that made the work of making the selections fun and interesting. All of the ladies actually deserved to be recognized. Unfortunately, we only had the opportunity to choose ten, but I really hope all of the nominees know that no matter what, whether they get recognized or not, the things they are doing in their individual communities go a long way. It’s important that these ladies keep up the work they’re doing because it really does make a difference.
That’s so true. Every little bit helps. So can you tell us a little bit about some of the ladies who made the team?
Absolutely. One of the ladies is Katarina Vuckovic from the Georgia Institute of Technology. She traveled to the Dominican Republic with 17 other student-athletes to help build homes, and she regularly devotes her time to the Ronald McDonald House, the Jacket 2 Jacket reading program and the Girls on the Run program. So she does a great deal of work in Georgia.
Another one of the ladies is Courtnee Walton from the University of Lousiville. She volunteers with the Family Scholar House, an organization that provides academic and family support to disadvantaged families. Another really cool thing that she does is she mentors girls who struggle with emotional and behavioral disabilities. That particular aspect of her work is very close to my heart because one of the big things we focus on at my foundation, Catch the Stars, is mentoring. We actually have quite a few ladies who participate in mentoring programs so it’s really great to see so many student-athletes leading the way through mentoring.
We also have some great ladies representing our Division II, III and NAIA schools. For instance, we have Deanna Busse from St. Ambrose University; a strong volunteer for the Love Your Melon Foundation. She brought the organization to her school’s campus and donated more than 60 hats to be given to children battling cancer. She’s a great lady who does a lot of amazing work on campus and in the area surrounding the university.
The ladies really sound amazing. So now that they’ve been officially named to the AllState WBCA Good Works Team®, what’s next for these ladies?
Well, we’ll all meet up in Indianapolis at this year’s Final Four. This is actually the first year that the NCAA Division I, II & III championships will be played in the same weekend, so the weekend will definitely be packed with excitement. We’ll meet up in Indianapolis and they’ll get honored at the Division I championship game on Sunday and then we’ll get back together again on Monday and do a community service event. After that, it’s back to class for them. But I’m really excited honoring this year’s team. We always have a good time, and it’s great to get to learn more about the ladies and their experiences and to have a chance to celebrate them.
That sounds like it’s going to be a lot of fun. So since we’re talking about the Final Four, let us know your picks for this year’s Division I Final Four.
Well of course I’m a bit biased. Even though they aren’t ranked really high, I always hold out hope and belief for my Lady Vols. I believe that once they make it to the tournament, anything is possible. So I’m pulling for them to be there, but outside of the Lady Vols, I have to pick Connecticut and South Carolina. What Coach Geno Auriemma has done consistently with the Lady Huskies is amazing. I know lots of people moan and groan because they’re number 1 and undefeated so often, but it really is a difficult task to stay number 1 and to play with so much consistency year after year. And for South Carolina, what Dawn Staley has done with that program is incredible. They’re playing exciting, smart basketball. So yeah, Tennessee, UConn and South Carolina are my picks.
Well I sincerely thank you for giving us a little bit of your time to chat about this year’s AllState WBCA Good Works Team®. And thank you for being such an active participant in a program that encourages young people to give back and paints young GladiatHers™ in such a positive light. We’ll definitely be tuning in to this year’s Final Four and to watch your last season in the WNBA.
Guys and gals if you’d like to see the complete list of student-athletes who made this year’s Team, click here. But also make sure you keep up with Tamika in 2016. She’s got a lot of things moving and shaking. In the midst of balancing her career, she continues to do selfless work through Catch the Stars Foundation. And don’t forget to cop her new book, Catch a Star: Shining Through Adversity to Become a Champion. It hits stores and the internet on March 1, just in time for March Madness.