The greatest female basketball player to call Indiana home is a succession of contradictions.
Humorous, yet serious. Fiercely competitive, yet painfully polite. Willing to cast a wide net socially while at the same time being very private.
Katie Douglas performed at the highest levels possible both here and abroad in her chosen sport. The world was her home court.
But it was time.
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On May 1, the former Perry Meridian High School guard and 1997 Indiana All-Star made official what those with knowledge of her journey suspected was coming.
Citing recurring back issues, the former Purdue University All-American who as a sophomore 1999 helped lead the Boilermakers to a national championship retired from the WNBA career following a 14-year career.
She made the announcement six days prior to her 36th birthday, officially completing a WNBA career in which 5,560 points were scored, 1,569 rebounds were pulled down and 1,075 assists were dealt.
Douglas played six seasons and a total of 166 games (29 of them postseason) for the Indiana Fever (2008-13). She was part of the franchise’s WNBA championship in 2012.
Remarkably poised no matter the situation, the five-time WNBA All-Star already had experienced her share of drama even before taking the court for her first game.
Douglas’ father, Ken, passed away in 1997 due to cancer. She was all of 20 when her mother and best friend, Karen, lost her fight against breast cancer in 2000.
These events along with many friendships made, games played and cities experienced after also playing many seasons overseas shaped the 6-foot-1 left-hander into what she is today — a woman very much looking forward to the next chapters of her life.
The Daily Journal recently sat down with Douglas for a Q&A:
Q: How does retirement feel so far?
A: Maybe a little strange to not have my life consumed around practices, around workouts, around rehab. But it feels pretty good. I would say I’m very comfortable with the decision I made, and I’m really not looking back and pondering about it. When the games start this summer I might have a different feeling, but thus far I’m extremely busy, and it feels pretty good.
Q: Dare I ask how the jump shot is?
A: (Laughing) Oh, it’s terrible. Honest to God’s truth, it’s TERRIBLE. The other day I went to check out this private basketball court, there were about 20 kids there, and they asked me to play one-on-one. I was like, “This is terrible. I’m embarrassing myself.” To my defense, I literally haven’t been able, with my back, to do any of that kind of stuff. It was spontaneous. There was a gym, a ball and a bunch of kids pressuring me. I told the boy I was playing, “You know what, I’m going to do better. I’m going to be better.” I’m going to come back better once I can get myself, my body, my mind healed and I’ll play him again.
Q: Was your health the primary reason you stepped away from the game?
A: In late August, right at the conclusion or near the conclusion of our season in Connecticut, my back in the middle of a game just went crazy. I kind of snuck off through the tunnel during the game, saw myself out and about near collapsed. It wasn’t my lower back at all. It was my middle back that gave me quite a bit of trouble, and I really have not been able to recover in the time that I needed to. It was a hard decision, but when you put the facts in front of you it was really an easy decision when weighing the risk and potential lifelong damage I would do versus the quality of life. I had to kind of weigh all those things, make that decision and walk away.
Q: Now that you’ve had time to reflect, what are you proudest of from your playing career be it high school, college or professional?
A: It’s easy to say the two championships, the one at Purdue and then the one with the Fever (2012). But I’m also proud of so many different things. Just the journey and the friendships that I’ve gained. Lifelong friends, the teammates that I’ve had. Coaches who I still remain in contact with. The game itself is great, and people ask me, in particular, about certain games. To be honest, I don’t remember those things. Most of all just the friendships and the relationships that I’ve been able to develop. The places and the countries and the cities that I’ve been able to see and do through basketball.
Q: Have you ever counted how many different countries you’ve been in?
A: No, not counted. But pretty much all of Europe I’ve been in. You name it, I’ve been there.
Q: Give me one shot in all those years of playing basketball you would like to have back.
A: One shot … probably Purdue and that Notre Dame game (the Fighting IRish won the 2001 national title, 68-66, as Douglas, then a Purdue senior, was off the mark on the potential game-winner). It wasn’t even a play, but I’d like to have that shot back. And I’d like to have that shot when I was in … I wasn’t even a shooter then. I would like to be the player that I was a few years ago and take that shot for Purdue. I just tried to get it off before time expired. There was no play. It was just get something up there as quick as you can.
Q: Was that your most heartbreaking loss in basketball?
A: I don’t know if it was my most heartbreaking loss. But that was an end to an era. I would have loved to gone out on top as a champion. But then different times in the WNBA were heartbreaking, as well. When we lost the first finals versus Phoenix, that was pretty tough for us. And then in Connecticut we went to two WNBA Finals, and we were probably going in somewhat as the favorite and weren’t able to capitalize due to various circumstances. All the way back to Perry Meridian, losing the semistate final to Martinsville at Southport Fieldhouse. I really would have loved to go to a state finals with my high school team.
Q: I’ve heard you might be looking into getting into coaching basketball. Do you have a level or starting point in mind?
A: It’s definitely something that interests me. I said a long time ago I thought maybe I would like to be on the business side in the front office. I definitely feel like I want to give back to the game that’s given me so much. I feel like I can do some coaching. I love the game. I feel I was a student of the game as a player. It’s something I would like to explore, but I’m also thinking about doing private lessons, camps and what not. Getting that off the ground in Indianapolis.
Q: Will you continue to be an ambassador for breast cancer awareness?
A: Absolutely. We were just talking, my family and friends and I, this past weekend that I’ll be free and able to do the breast cancer walk/run next year. I want to get involved in that and stay involved in Indianapolis as far as giving back to the community and making myself accessible. By any means I definitely want to be an ambassador for whoever needs me to help find a cure, help raise awareness and educate women. I would say it’s hard to find a woman or a girl that hasn’t had breast cancer somehow impact her, whether it’s her immediate family, friends, co-workers. It’s definitely something that’s hot-button and something I would love to stay involved in.
THE DOUGLAS FILE
Name: Katie Douglas
High school: Perry Meridian (1997)
College: Purdue University (2001)
Did you know? Douglas was runner-up in the voting for 1997 Indiana Miss Basketball … Co-Big Ten Player of the Year in 2000 and unanimous Big Ten Player of the Year in 2001 … five-time WNBA All-Star … MVP of 2006 WNBA All-Star Game.