NEW YORK (WNBA/FIBA World Championship for Women) - When historians look back at the international basketball that was played in the past decade, the names Tamika Catchings and Tina Charles are going to appear time and time again.
The 33-year-old Catchings is a multi-skilled forward who was a University of Tennessee stalwart under legendary coach Pat Summitt.
Since leaving the Lady Volunteers, Catchings has been one of the leading figures in the sport.
She has spent her entire WNBA career with the Indiana Fever, dating back to 2002 - the year she captured her first FIBA World Championship for Women gold with the Americans in China.
In fact, Catchings had already caught the eye as a member of the American side that won the 1997 World Championship for Junior Women.
With the USA senior team, Catchings has been as steady and reliable as anyone, a key ingredient in the side's last three Olympic gold-medal winning teams and the squad that also won the world title in 2010, as well as bronze in 2006.
Charles, 23, played for one of college basketball's other behemoths, the University of Connecticut.
After winning back-to-back NCAA titles under coach Geno Auriemma, Charles remained in the state to play for the WNBA's Sun and like Catchings, has made her mark with the American national team.
Charles celebrated gold-medal triumphs at the World Championship in the Czech Republic in 2010 and again at the London Games this summer.
On Friday, Catchings will run onto the court donning the Fever jersey as Indiana launch their playoff campaign with a home game the Atlanta Dream.
How good have these players been lately?
Catchings was the MVP of the WNBA last year, while Charles was named MVP of the 2012 season before leading the Sun past the New York Liberty, 65-60.
"The day is going great," said Charles, who finished the 2012 regular season with her third consecutive WNBA rebounding title (10.5 rpg).
She also set a new Connecticut Sun single-season scoring record, averaging 18 points.
"I got a (personal) achievement, and we got the first play-off win,” Charles said.
"Now we have to build on that."
Catchings didn't claim the MVP honor this time, but that doesn't mean that she’s not at the top of her game. Far from it.
Catchings, who has averaged more than 17 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game in 2012, was third in the MVP voting, with another Team USA star, Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks, second.
A golden launch pad
The year couldn't have been much better for either player, yet it could have turned out very differently.
Only last month in London, Charles, Catchings and the rest of the USA squad had to survive a major challenge against Australia in the Semi-Finals to remain on course for gold.
It was an emotion-packed encounter, with Australia’s burgeoning star Liz Cambage erupting for 19 first-half points.
The Opals led in the third quarter but the Americans shut down Cambage in the second half, holding her without a point, and won, 86-73.
Looking back at that game, Catchings believes it was one of the greatest tests the Americans have ever faced.
“Every time we play Australia, it's kind of like a blood war that we go through and this one wasn't anything short of that,” she said.
“I think any time you face adversity as a team it allows you to grow and build character for your team.”
After the American win, Catchings and Charles helped deliver an early knockout punch against France in the Gold Medal Game, which they won, 86-50.
It’s been proved over and over again that success with international teams breeds confidence.
Players return to their club sides in fine fettle.
So it has proved for Charles and Catchings.