Former Illinois Prep Athletes named to the 25 Greatest WNBA Players- Catchings, Griffith, Parker, and Pondexter

The Women’s National Basketball League turned 25 this season and the WNBA is commemorating it with their W25 list. This list honors the best to every play the game and those who have influenced the next generations of players. Of the 25 players (10 active/15 retired), four once starred for Illinois high school basketball teams.

Together, they have transformed the way the game is played, changed the way athletes are viewed, become incredible role models, and inspired generations of young, diverse athletes.”

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert

The four include Stevenson’s Tamika Catchings, Carver’s Yolanda Griffith, Naperville Central’s Candace Parker, and Marshall’s Cappie Pondexter.

Tamika Catchings (Stevenson)

Tamika Catchings played just two seasons for Adlai E. Stevenson High School before moving to Duncanville, Texas but made history during them. She earned All-State and All-American honors in 1994 and 1995 while helping winning an IHSA state championship in 1995. She was named Illinois Miss Basketball in 1995 as a sophomore, making her the first underclassman to earn the award.

Catchings played 15 years in the WNBA, all for the Indiana Fever. She was a 10-time All-Star and a 1x MVP (2011). She also won a WNBA championship in 2012. She averaged 16.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 2.4 steals a game across 457 career games. Her 457 career games is tied with Tanisha Wright for the tenth most all-time.

Yolanda Griffith (Carver)

Yolanda Griffith needs to be a household name for hoops’ fans. She stepped onto the WNBA scene and was the best player already in here first season. Prior to the WNBA, Griffith was a star multi-sport athlete at Carver in Chicago, Illinois. She continued her athletic pursuit at Palm Beach Community College and later moved onto Florida Atlantic University. In 1999, she went number two to the Sacramento Monarchs and was the best player that season. She averaged several career-bests that season which included 18.8 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks. Griffith also averaged 1.6 assists and 2.5 steals. She was named Most Valuable during her rookie campaign. In 2005, she won a WNBA championship and was named finals MVP. She also is a 7-time All-Star.

Over 311 career games, Griffith averaged 13.3 points on 50.6 percent shooting, 7.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.7 steals, and a block per game. She played 11 seasons in the WNBA- 9 with Sacramento Monarchs, 1 with the Seattle Storm, and 1 with the Indiana Fever.

Candace Parker (Naperville Central)

Candace Parker is a WNBA star and a well known face of the WNBA. This year, she headed home to play for the Chicago Sky and is a key contributor to their season success. Prior to her time with the Sky, she was a star for the Los Angeles Sparks and the Tennessee Volunteers but it all started at Naperville Central.

She was a 2x state champion and won/earned several state and national honors during her time playing at Naperville Central. She even holds the record for the most points at the school with 2,768.

Candace Parker is in her 14th season in the WNBA. She spent the previous 13 with the Los Angeles Spark. During her career (so far), she is averaging 16.7 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.6 block per game across 357 games.

Each step over her career, she collected accolades and awards like sports cards and it does not look like she is done quite yet. So far on her resume, these include:

  • 2x MVP
  • WNBA Championship
  • WNBA Finals MVP
  • 6x All-Star
  • WNBA All-Star MVP

This is just a few. There are a ton more and if Parker has anything to say about, she would not mind adding to it.

Cappie Pondexter (Marshall)

Just like Parker, Cappie Pondexter is not originally from Illinois but made a name for herself playing for a high school in the state. Pondexter stepped onto the scene while playing for John Marshall Metropolitan High School and would eventually be named a WBCA All-American. She went on to spend four years at Rutgers. Pondexter was taken with the second overall pick by the Phoenix Mercury in the 2006 WNBA Draft.

She won two WNBA Championships with the Mercury and was even Finals MVP in 2007. After four seasons in Phoenix, Pondexter joined the New York Liberty for five seasons. In 2015, she joined the Chicago Sky and played another three for her “hometown” team. She’s most recently played in 2018 and split time with the Los Angeles Sparks and Indiana Fever.

Over her 13 seasons, she averaged 16.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and a steal a game. Cappie Pondexter’s 416 career WNBA games played is the 21st most in WNBA history.

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