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Mohegan - Katie Douglas wanted to talk to Connecticut Sun public and community relations manager Bill Tavares at a recent practice, so she walked over and lowered her shoulder into him.
Douglas was asked about her back, which caused her to miss most of last WNBA season. She had lumbar microdiscectomy surgery last October to correct it.
"The back is good," Douglas said. "How does it look?"
Douglas has added many characteristics in her return to Connecticut. She's been among the league's best shooters. She's a five-time selection to the WNBA's All-Defensive team. She's also used to big games, having played in four WNBA Finals and for Purdue's 1999 national championship team.
Douglas has also added her sense of humor and a sometimes scathing wit.
"(My teammates) like to crack on me sometimes," Douglas said, "but then I break out some one-liners and they don't know what to do. They really don't. They're lost for words a lot."
All those traits are why the Sun were willing to give Douglas a guaranteed maxium contract. She was a key member of their 2004 and 2005 Eastern Conference championship teams and one of the best players in franchise history. Connecticut traded her home to Indiana after the 2007 at her request.
Sun coach Anne Donovan has spent the past few months raving about Douglas' contributions.
"There are three categories," Donovan said. "Let's go player first. She's just so smart and relishes the role of being a menace defensively. She relishes that matchup and really likes to bother the best offensive player. When you spend so much time offensively to score, it's rare to really want that matchup defensively, and she takes so much pride in that.
"A leader, that's the second category for me. She is constantly leading. ... Phoenix is making a run on us (during a June 12 game) and it's late and Katie was not on the floor at that time. I had to call a timeout. Players come to the bench, and you could see they were visably shaking as Phoenix was being Phoenix and making ridiculous shots. Katie, I can hear her off to the side while the coaches were speaking, 'They're going to hit shots, y'all. Calm down.' And it was how she presented it. It was with such conviction. ... And it was with such confidence that it just rubs off on everybody else. They came out of the timeout (relaxed), and it wasn't what I said. It was what Katie told them as a leader.
"The third category is a person, just the person that KT is. She's what every mother would want their daughter to be. She understands what's right. ... She knows how to handle herself. She knows how to push through and support all of her teammates."
Connecticut has looked to Douglas for her leadership. The 35-year-old is an anomoly for the Sun and is the only player over 26. Several of them went to see comedian Chelsea Handler in late May and mugged it up on Chiney Ogwumike's Twitter account.
"I try to stay edgy for them," Douglas said. "I try to listen to their music so that I know what's going on. I try to watch a little 'Love & Hip-Hop' and all this stuff so I know what's going on. I feel good. My body feels great. My mind is very young. My body doesn't feel like 35."
Douglas has found her second time around at Connecticut to be fulfilling as she's part of a rebuilding franchise. Seven of the 12 players are new, namely second-year players Alex Bentley and Kelsey Bone, and rookies Chiney Ogwumike and Alyssa Thomas.
"That's kind of why I picked (Purdue)," Douglas said. "I wanted to go somewhere that hadn't had all the banners hanging, and to be part of something new. New experiences and new championships. ... I wanted to to be part of a special new group.
"It's sort of a similar situation here. A new group. So many new faces. It's been quite a journey thus far with all of us, but it's been fun. We've got the kind of people that are great people, first and foremost. Great characters and great players. Anytime you have that kind of blend and mix and everyone is on the same page, it's fun to be around."