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Catchings a Preseason All-American

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Tamika Catchings, who excelled from her first day at Tennessee, was named to the Associated Press preseason All-America team for the third time Wednesday — just the second player to hold that distinction.

Catchings, the national player of the year last season, was the top vote-getter on a team that also had Svetlana Abrosimova and Shea Ralph of Connecticut, Kelly Miller of Georgia and Katie Douglas of Purdue.

Tennessee's Chamique Holdsclaw was the first player chosen to the preseason team three times, receiving that honor in 1996, 1997 and 1998.

On a team full of stars, Catchings stood out last season with her determination, smarts and all-around play as Tennessee went 33-4 and reached the national championship game.

Twice a first-team All-America in the postseason, Catchings received 40 of a possible 42 votes from a national media panel. She also was the top vote-getter last year.

``The awards are great, but they aren't all that I'm after in my career,'' Catchings said. ``I want to win a national championship this year.''

Catchings helped the Lady Vols win the national title as a freshman in 1998. They lost in the regional finals in 1999 and were beaten by Connecticut 71-52 in last season's title game.

Miller, who teamed with her twin Coco to lead Georgia to the West Regional final last season, was named on 29 ballots. Abrosimova also received 29 votes, Ralph had 25 and Douglas 23.

Douglas was the only member of the team who was not a first-team All-American at the end of last season. She edged Notre Dame's Ruth Riley for the final spot on the preseason team. Riley was the fifth member of the top All-America team last season.

Catchings led Tennessee in scoring (15.7), rebounding (7.9) and steals (2.5) last season and was third in assists (2.7). She twice scored 28 points in a game and grabbed 16 rebounds against Texas Tech in the Mideast Regional final despite playing most of the game with a sprained right ankle.

``I think Tamika's competitive drive and ability to run the floor separate her from the rest of the pack,'' Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. ``You can count on her not only to score points and rebound, but to make big plays on the defensive end.''

Miller, a 5-10 senior, has shown a knack for doing just what Georgia needs at the moment, whether it's scoring, rebounding, passing or defense.

She averaged 15.1 points last season, led the team in assists and, as a point guard, was the Lady Bulldogs' second-leading rebounder.

``Kelly is someone we depend on and look to for so many things — offense, defense, direction, stability, rebounding, the list goes on and on,'' Georgia coach Andy Landers said. ``There really isn't anything we don't anticipate that she's going to give us.''

Abrosimova and Ralph are the fourth pair of teammates to make the preseason team since it started in 1994, following Catchings and Semeka Randall last season, Catchings and Holdsclaw in 1998 and Connecticut's Jennifer Rizzotti and Kara Wolters in 1995.

Ralph led the team in scoring and steals, shot 62.4 percent and was named the most outstanding player at the Final Four. Abrosimova led the Huskies in rebounding, was the No. 2 scorer and was voted the top player in the East Regional.

``They are both very talented and complement each other so well on the floor,'' Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. ``Their unique styles play off each other well and make us a better team. They both work extremely hard at the game, but more importantly, they work hard at winning.''

Douglas became Purdue's go-to player last season following the graduation of Stephanie White-McCarty and Ukari Figgs and handled the role well, leading the Boilermakers in scoring (20.4), assists (4.7) and steals (2.4).

She scored at least 30 points four times, had eight steals against Notre Dame and played the entire game 13 times.

``It's truly a great honor to be thought of as one of the top five players in the nation, but I still feel I have a lot to prove,'' Douglas said. ``Although this recognition is nice, a greater accomplishment would be to lead Purdue to success. That's the one I'm after.''
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