Terry DeWayne Catledge was a member of the original Orlando Magic and was known by many as “Cat Man” because of his last time. He was a 6’8 forward who started a majority of Orlando’s games during the first three seasons of their existence.
Catledge was born in Houston, Mississippi and started his basketball at South Alabama after no top tier schools really paid him any attention. What list includes two in-state schools that got good looks at Catledge: Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Luckily for Catledge, former South Alabama Assistant Coach Drayton Miller heard about Catledge and scouted him at a game in which Catledge dropped 45 points in. Finally, Catledge had a scholarship offer to play basketball.
Catledge became homesick and left South Alabama before eventually returning to South Alabama after a stint at Itawamba Junior College in Fulton, Mississippi. The NCAA wound up considering Catledge as a transfer student. He subsequently lost a year of eligibility. Thus, he was only allowed to play for three seasons. While at South Alabama, Cliff Ellis, who is the current coach at Coastal Carolina and a former head coach at both Clemson (1984-1994) and Auburn (1994-2004). Ellis left for Clemson before his senior season and Mike Hanks coached Catledge during his final season.
Catledge was outstanding from the get-go as a member of the South Alabama Jaguars. In his first season, he played in 28 games. He played 32.5 minutes per game, averaged 19.7 points per game and 9.9 rebounds per game. I don’t care what school you go to, even if it is for a small school in the Sun Belt Conference, it is impressive to pretty much average a double-double during your first season against college competition. Catledge was even better in his second season. He played in 30 games and averaged 34.4 mpg. He upped his averaged to 19.9 ppg and 11.1 rpg. He also shot much better from the field in his second season. His final season, which he played under Hanks, Catledge had his best year. He played in 28 games but pretty much went the distance in every game, playing 37.1 mpg. His field goal percentage decreased but he was asked to take a lot more shots. He averaged an incredible 25.6 ppg and a career-high 11.5 rpg. He finished with a career average of 21.5 ppg and 10.8 rpg. He was twice named the Sun Belt Conference’s player of the year. He achieved this high accolade in each of his last two seasons with the Jaguars.
These big-time numbers made him a first round draft pick. The Philadelphia 76ers selected Catledge with the 21st overall pick in the 1985 NBA Draft. This was quite the feat for a player who wasn’t even recruited by his hometown schools. He spent only his rookie season with the 76ers. Catledge played in 64 games as a rookie, starting seven. He was coached by former Magic coach and current Magic TV color man Matt Goukas. His team wound up with a 54.28 record. Catledge was the team’s sixth leading scorer, averaging 7.7 ppg while played 17.1 mpg. Catledge also grabbed 4.3 rpg.
The most impressive part about Catledge’s rookie season was his performances in the playoffs. His minutes went way up – he played 26.6 mpg in the 1986 post-season. He averaged 10.4 ppg and 6.8 rpg. The 76ers defeated the Washington Bullets 3-2 in the first round but were dropped by the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round 4-3.
After the season ended, Catledge would join the team that he helped eliminate from the playoffs. He was traded along with Moses Malone, a 1986 first round draft pick that turned out to be Anthony Jones and 1988 first round draft pick that Harvey Grant was selected with to the Bullets in exchange for Cliff Robinson and Jeff Ruland. This is considered one of the most lopsided trades in NBA history.
Catledge would see no sophomore slump. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Catledge started 77 of the 78 games that he played in and averaged 13.1 ppg and 7.8 rpg in 27.6 mpg. The Bullets made the playoffs but they were swept out the first round by the Detroit Pistons. Catledge averaged an impressive 18.3 ppg and 8.3 rpg in 32.7 mpg but it was not enough for the Bullets.
During the 1987-88 season, Catledge regressed a bit, starting just 40 of the 77 games he played in. His averages dropped to 10.7 ppg and 5.7 rpg because of the dip in his minutes (23 mpg). The Bulllets would once again make the playoffs but Catledge was relatively ineffective. He played just 9 mpg, averaging 2.2 ppg and 1.2 rpg. The Bullets were once again eliminated by Detroit, although this time they took the Pistons to a decisive fifth game. This would be the last time Catledge would play in the post-season.
He spent one more season in Washington. He once again became a full-time starter, starting 77 of the 79 games he played in and averaging 26.3 mpg. His scoring average slipped to 10.4 ppg, but his rebounding improved to 7.2 rpg.
Following the season, Catledge was left unprotected by the Bullets and was drafted by the Orlando Magic in the Expansion Draft on June 15, 1989. He would spend the rest of his career with the Magic. Catledge played in 74 games for the inaugural Magic team, starting 72 of them. Catledge scored 25 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in the Magic’s first ever regular season game. He has 19 points and 11 rebounds in Orlando’s next game, which was a win over the New York Knicks, the first in franchise history. He had a 34-point, 11-rebound performance in an upset win over the Michael Jordan-lead Chicago Bulls on February 14, 1990. Catledge averaged a career-high 19.4 ppg during the 1989-90 season which was the best on the team (Just as a note, current Magic General Manager Otis Smith averaged 13.4 ppg during the same season, good for third on the team). Catledge also averaged a career-high 7.6 rpg, plus played a career-high 33.3 mpg.
Catledge was limited to just 51 games and earned just 38 starts during his second season in Orlando. He averaged 14.6 ppg and 7.0 rpg. In his third season with the Magic, he managed to stay healthy but averaged just 14.8 ppg and 7 rpg even though he played 31.2 mpg. This was due to the development of Orlando’s best player, Nick Anderson (19.9 ppg). Dennis Scott also averaged 19.9 ppg but was limited to 18 games.
After the season, the Magic won the draft lottery and selected LSU Center Shaquille O’Neal with the #1 pick. O’Neal had worn #33 at LSU and wanted to keep that number in the NBA, but Catledge refused to give it up, forcing O’Neal to settle with #32. Catledge made just one start for Orlando during the 1992-93 season and played in just 21 games total. He played just 12.5 mpg and saw his averages drop to career lows of 4.7 ppg and 2.2 rpg. Catledge was held scoreless in six minutes in a win over the Knicks on February 14, 1993. This would be his last career NBA game. He was only 29 years old.
Catledge played in 515 career NBA games, starting 379 of them. He averaged 26.3 mpg in those 515 games. He finished with respectable career averages of 12.7 ppg and 6.4 rpg.
Sports Illustrated recently dipped into their vault and pulled up a story about Catledge written by Ivan Maisel for an issue back on March 4, 1985. Catledge was in the midst of his final season at South Alabama when the article was written.