- Associated Press - Thursday, September 22, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - One down, one to go for Tamika Catchings.

The Indiana Fever forward had two things missing from her impressive resume _ a WNBA title and the most valuable player award.

Now, just one empty space remains. She finally won the MVP award after being runner-up in 2003, 2009 and 2010. She averaged 15.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.0 steals this season as Indiana finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference, giving the Fever homecourt advantage in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

While Catchings always has been focused on winning the championship, her supporters feel it’s about time she was recognized for her individual skills.

“I feel like this is 10 years in the making,” Fever COO and General Manager Kelly Krauskopf said. “There have been some years I’ve scratched my head and wondered how she didn’t get the MVP. It’s great to take a moment to recognize her contributions to our franchise and our city.”

Her teammates, her coach and even Pacers president Larry Bird campaigned for her, though she never got caught up in it.

“I think everything is God’s timing,” Catchings said. “Everything happens at a perfect time and a perfect place.”

Catchings had 21 of 40 first-place votes for 292 points, followed by Connecticut’s Tina Charles (209) and Chicago’s Sylvia Fowles (148). Seattle’s Sue Bird (106) and Minnesota’s Lindsay Whalen (104) followed in the voting.

Catchings is a four-time defensive player of the year who has led the Fever to the playoffs seven straight years, the Eastern Conference Finals four times and the WNBA finals in 2009. Earlier this year, she was voted one of the WNBA’s 15 greatest players of all time.

Bird, himself a 3-time NBA MVP, said Catchings is an ideal winner because of her work ethic and intensity.

“Everyone here at Pacers Sports & Entertainment is not only happy to have an MVP, but also a quality person who is not only great on the court, but in the community as well,” he said. “This is very deserving, as Tamika fits the true description of an MVP. It’s another in a long list of accomplishments, all of which we’re extremely proud for her.”

Krauskopf was emotional when she heard the news.

“I just got big tears in my eyes,” she said. “I was so happy and thrilled for Tamika.”

After Catchings tied a career high with 32 points in a win over the Liberty on Aug. 13, Fever coach Lin Dunn started an unofficial campaign.

“Catch is a multidimensional player,” Dunn said that night. “I think sometimes she’s not given enough credit for all the different things she can do. She gets assists, she gets steals, she gets rebounds, she scores and she defends like nobody else in the league. It’s unfortunate that so much emphasis is put on ‘Who’s the leading scorer?’”

Pat Summitt, Catchings‘ coach at Tennessee, said the forward is an MVP in every way.

“She totally symbolizes every aspect of what a most valuable player should be through her leadership and everyday excellence on the court,” Summitt said. “I am, and always have been, extremely proud of how Tamika goes about her business. I have been fortunate to coach a lot of great players but there has always been a ‘specialness’ between Catch and I because she is so real.”

Even as Catchings was humbled and thankful for the award, she focused on Atlanta.

“I don’t know why this year was my year, but I’m going to take it in stride and keep it moving and finish this journey off,” she said shortly before the Fever faced the Dream in Game 1 of the conference finals.


Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/cliffbruntap

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