“It’s a pretty big deal when Tamika Catchings is the one believing in you”
After selecting Lauren Cox third overall in Friday’s WNBA Draft — to be paired with Teaira McCowan in the near future, surely — the Indiana Fever’s second-round pick would ideally be someone who knows how to run a system that centers getting the ball down low.
Enter Kathleen Doyle.
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“I have experience feeding a pretty decent post inside in Megan [Gustafson], so I think [the Fever] probably saw that,” the former Iowa guard told the media Saturday morning. “I’m looking forward to working with them again, great bigs. Everyone’s good in this league.”
It was a combination of excitement and humility from Doyle post-draft, who Indiana selected No. 14 overall — higher than many expected. She became the highest Iowa draft pick since Samantha Logic went 10th overall in 2015, and the fifth-highest in Iowa history.
But the more Doyle talked about the Fever’s needs and expressed confidence in her skillset, from pace of play to passing and more, the clearer it became that Indiana could be an ideal fit.
“I know that Coach [Marianne] Stanley wants to play a fast-paced tempo, so that works in favor of me and my game and what we did at Iowa. We like to get the ball up and down the court,” Doyle said. “That’s something that’ll be similar and I have experience doing, so I’m looking forward to that.”
One of Doyle’s strengths, Stanley said, is her ability to command the pace of the game by getting her teammates moving. As a combo guard who both runs the offense (her 6.3 assists per game were 7th in the country this season, second only to Sabrina Ionescu among draftees) and isn’t afraid to take shots (she was the Big Ten’s fourth-leading scorer and a 2019-20 finalist for the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award for best shooting guard), it’s been in her best interest to maintain that exact game plan to create as many scoring opportunities as possible.
It’s a process that was obvious with Gustafson, who Doyle said called her Friday night offering congratulations in the chaos of her post-draft celebrations. And it’s a process that became obvious once again this past season with Monika Czinano, who finished second in the nation in field goal percentage. Because it’s not just that Doyle has a history of being able to find her go-to shooter in the post, but that she found them in a position to be able to take high-percentage shots.
“She’s a terrific facilitator, as a point guard and lead guard,” Stanley said. “At the same time, when the ball comes back to her, she’s not afraid to take a big shot, and she has the ability to make big shots.
“She is bringing so much to the table, and I’m really excited about how she’s going to fit in with what we already have.”
Boosted by experience with USA Basketball at the Pan American Games last summer, where she and many more of Friday’s draftees competed in the five-on-five or 3×3 tournaments, Doyle said her confidence has grown over the last year thanks to that as well as the day-to-day rigors of playing in the Big Ten.
She knows she’ll need that confidence as she prepares to not just play with some of the best in the world once again, but now compete for a professional roster spot against them.
“I’m just gonna do my best and try to play as hard as I can, every possession that I have the opportunity to play in and just try to be myself, my full self, from beginning of training camp to the end, and show what I can do,” Doyle said. “Just not hold back and not have any regrets in training camp — that’s what I’m going to try to do.”
While Doyle is eager about the prospect of playing for a championship team that she sees as being on its way back up — the Fever won their sole WNBA championship in 2012, but haven’t been back to the playoffs since 2016 — she couldn’t help but express that the whole process made her a little starstruck.
Well, Fever general manager Tamika Catchings certainly had that effect on her, anyway.
“During our interview we hit it off and there’s just a lot of good vibes in that interview, and she’s just an awesome lady and she has a vision for the Fever and I’m really excited that she thought I’d be a good fit to be a part of it,” Doyle said. “But yeah, it’s a pretty big deal when Tamika Catchings is the one believing in you.”
The reasoning for taking Doyle as early as Indiana did was obvious to Catchings, who playfully ribbed Doyle during Saturday’s Fever Zoom call: She comes off as reserved, Catchings said, but her energy radiates anyway.
Because it wasn’t just Doyle’s playing that made her an attractive pick, but her spirit.
“I mean, talk to her,” Catchings said. “Her energy, but I think it’s her leadership. If you watch the way that she played — and, you know, Marianne can talk about everything that shows on the court, all the specifics, your assists, and all of that — but I think what she can bring to our team is just another level of energy, another point guard.”
When Doyle can begin to show off exactly why Indiana picked her will have to wait, though, along with the start of the pro dreams of every other draftee. Training camp was due to begin April 26, but that won’t happen.
The start of WNBA season was postponed indefinitely earlier this month due to concerns about coronavirus, and the league has contingency plans in place for a season delayed by 30, 60 or 90 days.
“I just saw my name pop up on the screen and I got really excited and then I went to bed,” Doyle said. “It’s kind of just a weird time right now. Nobody has any idea when it’ll start or anything like that, so I’m just kind of waiting.”
But Doyle says she’s still working out, even if it’s just at home. And even amid the uncertainty of when (or if) the 2020 WNBA season will take place, that energy continues to shine through.
“It’s really exciting and a lot of hard work paying off, so it definitely feels good to have something to celebrate at such a strange time like this, for sure,” she said.
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