August 12, 2023 

Locked on Women’s Basketball: Why did Tamika Catchings fall in 2001 WNBA Draft?

Should the Charlotte Sting have picked Catchings over Georgia's Kelly Miller?

It’s time for another installment of our WNBA Retrospect series at Locked on Women’s Basketball! The series reviews old game film, news reports, stats and more to determine who has been the best prospect in the history of the WNBA. Last week, Hunter Cruse, Em Adler and Lincoln Shafer discussed the No. 1 overall pick in 2001, forward Lauren Jackson. This week, they look at the two picks right after Jackson, Kelly Miller and Tamika Catchings.

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Miller was a 5’10 guard who starred for Georgia alongside her twin sister Coco, who herself was drafted No. 9 the same year. Catchings, a 6’1 forward, was a superstar for Tennessee but had torn her ACL midway through her senior season. Em weighs in on the Charlotte Sting’s decision to select Miller over Catchings at No. 2:

“The 2001 draft featured two players [Jackson and Catchings] who are both in serious consideration for the greatest player in WNBA history … and I truly cannot emphasize enough that this was extremely apparent at the time. … An ACL tear midway through a senior season should not be remotely enough to not have drafted Catch, knowing what we knew at the time. And here’s the thing: I like Kelly Miller as a prospect, I really do. But she’s not 6’2, guarding [positions] two through four, with three and a half [steals plus blocks] per game, shooting 50% from the field and 35% from three …

“But the management with the Sting at the time knew that their days might be numbered. And they knew that they could not take a player — they were told, really, that they could not take a player … who wouldn’t play their 2001 rookie season because there might not be a 2002 team for them to come back to.”

Miller played 12 WNBA seasons for six franchises, winning a WNBA title in 2007 with the Phoenix Mercury. In her career, she averaged 7.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 364 games, starting 215 of them. She also won the WNBA Most Improved Player award in 2004.

Catchings missed the 2001 season rehabbing her knee but won Rookie of the Year in 2002 with the Indiana Fever. She played for Indiana for her entire 15-year career and earned 10 All-Star selections, five Defensive Player of the Year awards, an MVP award in 2011 and a WNBA championship in 2012.

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