Monday, May 25, 2009

Katrina Price: 1975-1999

Katrina Price was planning to earn her master's degree at Stephen F. Austin and had enrolled for the fall semester. She was sharing an apartment with her younger sister and sometime early in the morning, she went into either the hallway or the bedroom of their shared apartment.

It was January 18th, 1999. She had taken a shotgun with her. She wasn't successful the first two times, but on the third attempt, the shot hit its target. She was 23 years old.

Just less than one month before, Katrina Price played her final professional basketball game on December 20, 1998. Against the Columbus Quest in Philadelphia she played five minutes, attempting two shots and missing them both. The Rage would win 77-70.

Price had graduated from Stephen F. Austin university in the spring of 1998. She was the leading career scorer for the Ladyjacks. During a game where Nancy Lieberman-Cline was the broadcaster, Price challenged Lieberman-Cline to a game of HORSE.

Price won.

Price had been made the seventh overall pick for the Long Beach Stingrays in the 1998 ABL draft, but the Stingrays folded before she could play a minute. That was how she ended up with the Rage in Philadelphia.

Price had tried out for the WNBA but went undrafted. According to the New York Times, she was offered the chance to attend a free-agent draft but joined the ABL instead.

Her prospects for employment didn't look good. She might have been able to go overseas and play, but FIBA had a rule - I don't know if this is still the case - where if a player wishes to play pro ball in Europe directly from playing in a professional league, then that league must give its permission. The problem was that the ABL had declared bankruptcy and was a non-functional legal entity. Price was caught in a Catch-22.

Price was the best friend of Chasity Melvin. Both were rookies on that 1998 Philadelphia Rage team and Melvin took her loss hard.

She had no known debts. She had occasionally mentioned being depressed during the gap between the demise of the ABL and her suicide, but it wasn't considered as being serious. Price was known to be a hard worker and someone who wasn't the kind of person to crumble under pressure. (She was a salutatorian and graduated cum laude.) However, she had suffered losses. Her mother had died of cancer in 1993 and her father died of a heart attack in her senior year of college. Two grandparents died between the loss of her parents.

On January 18th Price, the eighth of nine children, had an hour long conversation with her sister Glenda Shead. Price confided in being deeply depressed - she was crying, and telling her sister that she felt "lower than low". Shead told Price that she and her other sisters would help Price get through this moment of sadness. Price managed to compose herself and told her sister that she was going back to bed. One hour later, Price committed suicide.

She left behind two notes. It's not known what the notes said. Most suicide notes are attempts to absolve other people of blame - the person writing the note usually writes it to take all of the guilt.

Even athletes can suffer from mental illness. Russ Johnson and Jimmy Piersall from baseball. Mike Tyson from boxing. Ricky Williams from football. Kendall Gill from men's basketball. To this day, mental illness is still seen as a personal failing instead of something that can be treated with therapy and medication.

What happened in Katrina Price's case? Was it the pressure? Was it a chemical imbalance in her brain? Was it her personal losses? Was it all of the above? These are the kind of questions that will probably haunt Katrina Price's family forever. We can only hope that Katrina is free of her pain, and that her family has recovered in some measure from the pain that Katrina left behind by taking her life.

Rest in peace.

1 comment:

Q said...

Just a FYI -- I've greatly appreciated reading these profiles of past players, particularly this one.

For whatever reason, there is still massive stigma around the issue of mental health. What's sadder than the fact that others around someone suffering from illness consider it a failing is the effect of that -- the person with the illness concealing the problem to the point where end up falling deeper and deeper into despair. It sounds like that's what happened in this case and by the time she did reveal the problem, it was too late...

It's one more reason why Holdsclaw should really be applauded for sharing her struggle with the world. It's not just eccentric wingnuts locked in the woods that suffer from mental illness -- it's everyday people and it's not their fault.