Senior staff writer
Retired WNBA All-Star Katie Douglas-Poe always has believed in the Southside; likewise, the Southside has believed in her.
She is among the most accomplished athletes from the area, and her basketball skills were displayed at Catholic Youth Organization games, Glenns Valley Elementary, Meridian Middle and Perry Meridian High School.
“I always try to give praise to my fellow Southsiders,” said Douglas-Poe, who retired from the WNBA in May 2015. “The Southside has always supported me in everything I accomplished and stood for; that’s why I decided to come back.”
Family considerations also played a big role. Her parents died of cancer within two years of each other while she was studying and playing at Purdue. She has a string of relatives who helped her through the trying days after their deaths and finally a chronic and painful back injury forced her into retirement.
“Doctors told me that if I continued playing, my quality of life was going to be impacted,” Douglas-Poe recalled. “I’m a competitor so I was trying to defy their judgments; ultimately I wised up, stopped fighting it and retired.”
Refreshed by family, a new marriage and trips to Florida, she not only decided to return to the Southside but to become owner of Orangetheory Fitness in the remodeled Centre at Smith Valley, 1675 W. Smith Valley Road, Greenwood (317-247-0000, www.orangetheoryfitness.com).
She married Fred Poe, who owns K 7 K Fence Co. As a new business owner she wants to add the “a fabric of the community” to her resume.
“Ninety percent of my time is devoted to Orangetheory to make sure this place is an awesome studio and fitness facility,” Douglas-Poe said. “It’s challenging because it’s a new business. My years in the WNBA prepared me because I am the captain of my team here, making sure that I am the voice and face of this team.
“I want to make sure we have employees and trainers of great character and morals; you have to support yourself with people who are aligned with your values. Hopefully I’m able to emphasize a healthy lifestyle and transform their lives.”
Douglas-Poe oversees 14 employees. The grand opening is April 28. The high-intensity interval training is tailored for members who uses treadmills, rowers and weights.
Developer Tom English began improvements to the center, including tailor-made space for Orangetheory Fitness more than a year ago. Southside native Jennifer Gandolph Hawk, a standout student-athlete at Center Grove High School and the University of Michigan, is the studio manager.
Douglas-Poe understands her basketball days are behind her. She was a 1997 Indiana All-Star, helped lead Purdue to the 1999 NCAA basketball championship and reached four WNBA finals, finally winning the 2012 title with the Indiana Fever. She was a two-time collegiate All-American and Big Ten Player of the Year and five-time WNBA All-Star.
She received inaugural Jimmy V Foundation Comeback Award in 2001, which is among her most cherished accolades.
“I hold it near and dear to my heart,” she said. “I was so young when that happened. A lot of people don’t know that I was on the brink of not going back to school (after her parents died). The support I received encouraged me to go back.”
Douglas-Poe was a strong spokeswoman in the fight against Cancer as a WNBA star. She hopes to continue that role as a business owner.
“Honestly one of the other motivating reasons for this facility is to have a platform to give back to the community through outreach programs that are near and dear to my heart.”
Looking back on her high school career, she said her best memory was playing in the electrifying standing-room-only Southport Semistate, defeating Center Grove but then losing to Martinsville in the final year of nonclass basketball.
Twenty years later, the Southside’s most famous women’s professional basketball player is back home as a business owner ready for a grand opening.
“We’re in a frenzy but everybody is super-pumped,” she said.