- Tamika Catchings, Contributor, espnW.com
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Tamika Catchings is blogging for espnW throughout the year. Check back in April for more from her about the selection of the Olympic team.
The way I see it, if I can hold my own against guys, I'll be that much more prepared to go up against women when the WNBA training camp opens next month. That's why I've been working on my game rhythm with 5-on-5 practice against local guys. Nothing against girls, but men are legitimately stronger and faster. Most female players have grown up playing against men for this very reason -- the women want to get better.
It's been an especially long offseason for me because I didn't go overseas this year, and I'll tell you what, I am ready to go! It may sound cliché, but I truly miss being around my teammates and competing for a common goal.
I've been training hard, but I was able to mix in a little fun with a trip to Orlando for All-Star weekend, where I got the chance to be the lone female representative in the annual celebrity game. I was excited to meet everyone playing this year, but comedian Kevin Hart was particularly entertaining (and, quite possibly, psycho!). He actually brought three pairs of extra shoes and announced that he would be changing them every quarter. Who does that? Kevin ended up winning the MVP award, but U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who's a former Harvard player, impressed everyone by putting up 17 points. He was such a nice guy, too!
Of course, I also saw Kobe get popped by D-Wade in the All-Star Game. It brought back memories of accidentally giving Penny Taylor a black eye when we ran into each other at last year's WNBA All-Star Game. I remember feeling so terrible that I didn't even feel like finishing (though I'm not sure D-Wade felt the same way).
The most exciting thing this offseason, though, was when I was officially named one of the 21 Olympic team finalists. The final roster will be announced at the end of this month, and it's really hitting home that my third Games might be just around the corner. We have a fantastic national team coach in UConn great Geno Auriemma, and I know the selection committee will choose 12 players that fit well into his system. He's got a hard-nosed style of coaching, so from an attitude standpoint, he'll be making sure that each girl is working her butt off to help the team win!
People might think it's strange to play for a coach that many perceived to be an "enemy" during my college days playing for Tennessee, but that's just hype created by the media. Both Pat, my Tennessee coach, and Geno have been able to figure out ways to push me to be my best, and I respect them both immensely. That said, I'm pulling for Tennessee right now in the NCAA tournament, of course. Lady Vols for life!
I'm hoping I'll have some good news to share when the Olympic roster is announced. Until then, I'm sure my trainer will be working me hard so I can be in the best possible shape come opening day, and hopefully for the opening ceremonies, too.