- Nancy Lieberman, Basketball analyst / Writer
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Editor's note: As the NCAA celebrates its 25th season of women's basketball, ESPN and ESPN.com are counting down the top 25 moments of NCAA Tournament history. ESPN.com's experts also will name five-member, all-time all-league teams for several conferences. Here, Nancy Lieberman continues our countdown with the top players in SEC history.
The SEC has produced many of the greatest players in the history of women's college basketball over the past 25 years.
So how do you narrow the list down to five? Not easily. It's an almost impossible task, and of all the things I've been asked to do in all my years as an ESPN analyst, this ranks as one of the toughest.
After much deliberation, these five players made the cut:
Tamika Catchings, Tennessee '01
With her size, speed, skills and power, Catchings created incredible matchup problems at the 3 and 4. One of only five four-time Kodak All-Americans, she's one of the hardest-working players in history and redefined how you should play the game in terms of intensity. As UConn All-American Swin Cash once said, "I thought I was one of the toughest and most intense players to play the game. But then I went up against Tamika Catchings."
Teresa Edwards, Georgia '86
Even when she was a freshman, nobody was quicker end line to end line with the basketball. Her teammates could have sprinted without the ball and Edwards still would have reached the finish line first. The United States' only five-time basketball Olympian, Edwards was not the most gifted shooter in college but worked very hard on her game to develop her shot. Edwards, who was an incredible slasher and penetrator, was just a total competitor.
Chamique Holdsclaw, Tennessee '99
Holdsclaw graduated with three NCAA titles and as the SEC women's career leading scorer with 3,025 points, while also grabbing 1,295 rebounds. Another four-time Kodak All-American, Holdsclaw's best attribute was how she handled the moment. When the game was on the line, she was at her best. She understood her role, knew when she had to lift the Lady Vols or step back and let her teammates lead. When she needed a basket, she got it, and she was an unbelievable rebounder. And nobody worked the baseline like Holdsclaw did.
Katrina McClain, Georgia '87
One of the best post players I've ever seen, McClain was very versatile and a great rebounder who could run the floor. She had an incredible body and was the perfect complement to any perimeter player because she was so unselfish. Her stats -- she averaged 24.9 points and 12.2 rebounds as a senior -- could have been even more blown up, but McClain was the consummate team player. She had an "I'm going to make everybody around me better" aura about her. And nobody wanted to play against McClain. She was an absolute monster to have to guard, relentless on both sides of the ball. And chances were, she was going to embarrass you sooner or later.
Niesa Johnson, Alabama '95
Johnson made Bama a really fun team to watch in the mid-1990s because of what she could do on both ends of the floor. A true competitor, she had incredible quickness and range. A solid leader, Johnson also scored when her team needed her to and left as the program's record holder in career points, assists, steals and 3-pointers made. She just might have been one freak accident and a sliced finger away from the 1994 NCAA title.