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To Russia with love (of game)


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INDIANAPOLIS — She must first fly to Washington, before boarding an airplane destined for Moscow. Eleven hours later, Katie Douglas will travel southwest by train for an estimated eight hours until arriving at the Russian city of Kursk.

The Indiana Fever guard will recognize most of the faces she sees upon entering the arena for her first practice. Some from her extensive experience playing abroad, others based on 12 seasons making the rounds as one of the WNBA’s most visible talents. Some from both.

This should answer any questions about whether Douglas’ passion for basketball is beginning to wane as she approaches her mid-30s.

It’s not. The 6-foot-1 former Perry Meridian and Purdue University standout looks great, feels great and hopes to play great for Dynamo Kursk as it winds down its regular-season schedule in the Russian Premier League.

How Douglas got to this point is a path with numerous turns.

In October, Douglas suffered an ankle injury in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Connecticut. It proved severe enough to keep her out the remainder of the postseason, which culminated in Bankers Life Fieldhouse with the Fever capturing its first WNBA title.

Douglas originally had been contracted to play for Wisla Can-Pack Krakow in Poland, her departure to take place within a few days of whenever Indiana’s season came to a close. She wound up staying home to rehabilitate her ankle. Eventually it was determined Douglas’ ankle would require surgery, which took place in December.

Not exactly the way she’s used to spending her so-called offseason, but Douglas has managed just fine.

“I’ve been to Florida a lot since our season ended,” said Douglas, who has owned a home in Fort Myers since 2008. “I look at the forecast and see if it’s advantageous for me to go there. I work out. I go to the pool. I like to go down there and just blend in.”

Being one of the focal points for the queens of women’s professional basketball has, if anything, increased Douglas’ visibility in her hometown of Indianapolis.

“Nine times out of 10, it’s fine. Overall, fans are congratulatory,” she said. “It’s just that sometimes you’re in a hurry.”

By averaging 16.5 points a game, Douglas finished as Indiana’s second-leading scorer in 2012. Her well-rounded game also produced 3.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.5 steals per outing.

Dynamo Kursk — which already features another ex-Boilermaker, 6-1 forward Erin Lawless — is currently 14 games into an 18-game schedule. It takes a 9-5 record into its March 3 game against Dynamo K.-Chevakata.

Chances are

good Douglas will be in uniform and ready to play. Even if she takes part in a

championship on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, Douglas, who along with Fever assistant coach Stephanie White helped lead to Purdue to the 1999 NCAA title, knows nothing compares to reaching the highest of levels in your home state.

“The feeling is still hard to express into words,” Douglas said. “It’s such a high, and to be able to do it in Indiana in front of family

and friends is just unbelievable.”

Unfortunately, WNBA celebrations can be abbreviated compared to other professional sports. Count it as one of the negatives with so many of the league’s players contracted to play basketball overseas.

Heavy rain washed out the parade planned for Oct. 23. Instead, fans of all ages were invited to the main concourse area of Bankers Life Fieldhouse to shower their heroes with applause.

“Mother Nature cheated us, and everyone’s schedule is just so tight that we didn’t get to celebrate together as much as we would have liked,” Douglas said. “The parade would have been pretty nice. Maybe if we could have gotten all the players and gone on a vacation or something.”

Douglas’ current Fever contract calls her to play the 2013 season. Beyond that, nothing is set in stone, although she hasn’t ruled out the possibility of playing even longer.

“Besides the ankle injury, I’ve always been able to stay healthy. This is the first time I’ve never played a full season overseas,” she said. “My body feels good. I kind of take it contract to contract. I just listen to my body and my heart and my mind.”

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