May 06, 2004

Fever 86, Houston 63
Fever easily win preseason opener

New coach Brian Winters was a little surprised with what he saw during the Indiana Fever's first exhibition game Wednesday night. Probably so were the 3,420 in attendance, including Indiana Pacer Al Harrington.

The Fever led by as many as 28 points en route to an 86-63 win against the Houston Comets.

"I was expecting a closer game, but it didn't turn out that way," Winters said.

The Fever took the lead for good at 9-7 on Kelly Miller's pass to fellow starter Deanna Jackson for a layup. Miller had a game-high 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting from her point guard position.

Miller and Jackson were two of six new Fever players to see action. Fever free-agent pickup Astou Ndiaye-Diatta was announced as a starter but did not play due to a bruised right knee.

Tamika Catchings, the Fever's leading scorer last season, had 17 points, nine rebounds and four of her team's 23 assists.

Indiana shot 57.9 percent from the field, after averaging 41.7 last season.

Tamika Catchings

• Profession: Basketball player for the Indiana Fever of the WNBA.

• Age: 24.

• Hometown: Duncanville, Texas.

• College: University of Tennessee, Class of 2001.

• Honors: All-American and College Player of the Year at Tennessee; WNBA Rookie of the Year, 2002; WNBA All-Star, 2002, 2003; All-WNBA first team, 2002, 2003; member of USA Women's National Team, 2004; attended 2004 State of the Union speech as a representative of U.S. Olympians.

Model citizen
Indiana Fever star Tamika Catchings helps the league dress up its image.

Iman. Naomi. Tyra.

Now Tamika?

Well, maybe not. But the Fever forward sure felt like a supermodel on a recent promo film shoot for the WNBA.

Catchings, 24, was flown down to Miami in early March along with other top players showcased in the "This Is Who I Am" campaign.

The results can be seen on the Web, in print and on TV. The first spot is being shown through the first two rounds of the NBA playoffs and conference finals on ESPN, TNT and ABC.

There is the 6-foot, 1-inch Catchings, looking every bit the cover girl.

"Everybody is like 'Oh, you look so beautiful,' and I'm like 'Dang, I don't always look beautiful? Tell me!' " Catchings joked. "Makeup makes a difference."

Good looks and fame aside, Catchings hardly leads the glamorous life.

She spends about 15 minutes getting ready most mornings. After the alarm clock goes off, she takes a shower, gets dressed and makes her bed before heading out the door. Most of the time she wears her hair in braids, so all she has to do is put them back in a ponytail.

"I don't wear makeup. I wear Chap Stick or lip gloss," said Catchings, who defines the natural look.

But for the shoot, she sat in the makeup artist's chair for about an hour while lipstick, blush and "eye stuff" like mascara were applied to her face. Her eyebrows were also plucked.

"I was like, 'OK, are we done yet? Are we done yet?' " Catchings said. "And they were like, 'One more thing, one more thing.' "

In her own words, it was all part of those "crazy" few days. Catchings had her clothing fitting on a Saturday, then had to fly back to Indiana for a basketball camp she was holding Sunday. On Monday, she flew back to Miami to do the shoot and came home Tuesday.

The shoot was held in a warehouse with different settings such as a basketball court, a workout area and a place with just a white backdrop for the players to pose all dressed up.

"We had specific stations that we wanted to run the players through to show the gamut of roles that they play in their lives," said Teri Schindler, vice president of programming and marketing for the league.

The fashion shoot is what made it into the commercial. In the first version, Catchings was wearing camouflage pants in white, light green and pink. A pinkish-beige tank top and green hat completed the ensemble. Set to the music of rocker Fefe Dobson, the 30-second spot features a smiling Catchings tipping the hat to the camera.

"That was probably the coolest one because they had the music going and the lights flashing," Catchings said. "You know the models, how they come down with their little walk? It was like that. I felt like a supermodel."

She wore more natural makeup to go with her workout clothes. For that shoot, she donned a pair of black-and-white capri pants and a tank top with the words "I will always try my hardest."

In real life, Catchings rarely picks out her own outfits. She leaves that to her older sister, Tauja.

That was how it worked for the shoot. After giving their sizes, the athletes had their pick from a variety of outfits, but had to try them on for a group outside the dressing area.

"You've gotta go through this whole little process," said Catchings, who did not have veto power. "Actually, all the outfits I tried on were fine. I got OK'd right away."

Catchings tried on three outfits and a bathing suit, but missed the shoot on the beach when she came back to Indiana for her camp. That was fine with Catchings, who wasn't crazy about the bright orange two-piece with boy shorts.

"I don't wear bikinis," she said.

Fever forward Natalie Williams has been featured in a commercial before, albeit not as glamorous as Catchings' recent shoot. She enjoyed the process, calling it a chance to do something outside of basketball.

"I think it's great they're putting them out there," Williams said. "I think it's important for the WNBA."

So what did Williams think of her teammate's look?

"She looked so cute in her hat," Williams said. "It was good; it was her personality."

Schindler said they "overshot," taking plenty of still photos and video for use in other projects. Photos of Catchings in various poses and outfits have already been featured on the Fever's Web site.

More to offer

"I think these players show you that they're more than just No. 24 on the court," says Fever General Manager Kelly Krauskopf.

A second commercial is planned, and the WNBA has also done subsequent shoots and will incorporate top draft picks Diana Taurasi and Alana Beard. During the WNBA season, those spots will run on ESPN2, ABC and NBA-TV.

The league's most recognizable and accomplished players were chosen by the WNBA in conjunction with their teams. Catchings, who has career averages of 19.2 points and 8.3 rebounds, was also featured in last year's "This Is Who I Am" campaign, wearing athletic garb.

"In 2002, Tamika was Rookie of the Year, she was an All-WNBA first-teamer and All-Star both years and one of the original seven core members of the U.S. Senior National Team," Schindler said. "So I think she represents the absolute best of the best in female athletes."

With superstar already on her resume, why not add supermodel?

A few WNBA players have already tried, as a good majority are tall and fit like Catchings.

In 1996, Los Angeles Sparks center Lisa Leslie signed a modeling contract with Wilhemina Models Inc. The 6-foot-5-inch All-Star center has modeled designs from Armani to Anne Klein. Also pursuing a modeling career is 6-4 Tangela Smith, who plays for the Sacramento Monarchs.

Catchings has no such plans, but said the shoot was a good experience. She is not a spokesperson yet like Leslie, who is featured in commercials for Subway.

"Hopefully, if I get to do more commercials, people can look at this and be like, 'Oh yeah, she's good at being in front of the camera,' even though I didn't say anything," Catchings said.

Good work off the court

She stays plenty busy with basketball and charity work. She's in the process of starting the Catch the Stars Foundation, which will benefit boys and girls ages 6-19, and is a Big Sister. She has received the league's Community Assists Award on three occasions.

Krauskopf said that is how Catchings really shines.

"Tamika's so genuine that she projects a warmth about her that people feed off of," Krauskopf said. "It's not fake, and people know that. I think part of that is what makes her such a great ambassador for the sport and for our team."

No matter what she looks like.

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