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February 13, 2014 at 11:26 AM

Tamika Catchings, Elena Delle Donne and Brittney Griner inspire communities


WNBA MVP Tamika Catchings

The WNBA grabbed plenty of headlines this offseason. But aside from ownership changes and overseas player updates, there has been some big news regarding community outreach with some of the players.

Earlier this month Elena Delle Donne, the WNBA Rookie of the Year, was named a global Special Olympics ambassador. The organization has long been a passion for Delle Donne. Her older sister Lizzie is autistic and has cerebral palsy, unable to see or hear.

“I’ve always loved working with Special Olympics and being able to get on the court and see young people with and without intellectual disabilities passing the ball and playing together,” Delle Donne said in a news release.

Bullied as a youth for being different, Phoenix All-Star Brittney Griner has worked with the community to increase awareness and inclusion as an out lesbian. She’ll return from play in China to grand marshal the 2014 Phoenix Pride Parade. The event is in April; the parade begins at 10am (PT) on April 5.

“Phoenix is my adopted home and I’m so honored by the way the fans and the community have embraced me, not only as an athlete but as a person,” Griner said in a statement released by the team.  “I look forward to attending my first Phoenix Pride, participating in the parade, and meeting more inspiring, proud Phoenicians who care as much as I do about equality and ending the bullying of our youth.”

For WNBA Most Valuable Player Tamika Catchings, the social-consciousness began when she played for legendary coach Pat Summitt at Tennessee. Catchings, who’s the current president of the WNBA Players’ Association, was a community volunteer through the college basketball program and started her own philanthropic organization, Catch the Stars, after graduation.

Ten years later, Catchings is making sure there are more Delle Donnes, Griners, and even Catchings in the future. Her foundation partnered with The Allstate NABC and WBCA Good Works Teams to find 10 women who have a positive impact off the court and in their communities. The players have the ability to balance academics with athletics while committing themselves to giving back to others.

“Pat stressed that the things you do in the community were just as important as on the court, if not more,” said Catchings in a telephone interview on Tuesday. A WNBA champion and three-time Olympic gold medalist, Catchings was recently honored with the Rings of Gold award as an individual who had made a remarkable contribution to the Olympic movement by encouraging youth to reach their dreams, whether personally, athletically or educationally.

“As of late, even more so, community service has become a priority for the colleges and universities and coaches and programs,” Catchings said of the movement. “This is my foundation’s second year getting involved in that.”

Seattle U senior F Kacie Sowell was among the 84 applicants for the Good Works Team this year but didn’t make the final cut. Catchings said being part of the committee that pairs down the group to 10 award winners was tough. Five were selected from the Division I level and a combined five are from the D II, D III and NAIA level.

“They’ve even been going overseas and doing things,” Catchings said of the vast array of work the young women have done in the community. “It’s exciting. And I’m excited to see how it grows next year.”

The following players have been named to the 2014 Allstate WBCA Good Works Team®:

NCAA Division I
Name Cl. Pos. School Hometown
Kastine Evans Senior Guard Kentucky Salem, Conn.
Alyssa Englert Senior Guard Hartford Dansville, N.Y.
NeTanya Jones Senior Center McNeese State Oakdale, La.
Courtney Moses Senior Guard Purdue Sweetser, Ind.
Shayla Bivins Senior Center Georgia Institute of Technology Jacksonville, Fla.


NCAA Divisions II, III and the NAIA
Name Cl. Pos. School Hometown
Jasmine Brewer Senior Guard Loyola (New Orleans) Houston, Texas
Amy Loya Senior Guard Union (NY) Bethel, Conn.
Michel’le St. Pierre Senior Guard Worcester State Seekonk, Mass.
Alexandra Wilkinson Senior Forward Minnesota State (Mankato) Blue Mounds, Wis.
Alexa Baltes Senior Guard Illinois Wesleyan St. Charles, Ill.

Comments | More in Northwest Ballers, WNBA | Topics: Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne, Tamika Catchings


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