The Emergence of Sylvia Fowles
“Big Syl” should be considered for MVP
by Ben York / @bjyork
It was only a matter of time.
After playing her first two seasons battling injuries and fighting for minutes, it’s clear that Sylvia Fowles has found her comfort zone in the WNBA. In fact, SLAMonline predicted Fowles to be the No. 1 breakout star in 2010 and she is more than living up to the hype.
Averaging 18.7 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 2.8 bpg, and 32 mpg while shooting 61 percent from the floor and 81 percent from the line (all career-highs), Fowles has inspired hope for Sky fans across the globe for the team’s first ever playoff birth.
“It feels good to be at the point in my game that I’ve always known I could be at,” Fowles told SLAMonline. “The first two years of my career were a disappointment due to my injury. This year, I’ve taken more of a leadership role and I’m loving it.”
Fowles assumed the bulk of the offensive output with the departure of former Sky All-Star Candice Dupree in a trade to Phoenix. After having an incredible offseason overseas playing with Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird in Russia, Fowles came back determined to continue that success in the WNBA. More than anything, she was prepared to pick-up the slack from Dupree’s departure.
“Candice [Dupree] was the go-to player in my first two years in the league,” Fowles said. “I still was fighting through injuries and wasn’t getting much playing time because of that. Now with Dupree in Phoenix, I knew I had to step it up for myself and the team.”
And that she has.
Fowles accounts for more than 25 percent of the Sky’s points, 32 percent of their rebounds, and 30 percent of the team’s free-throws. During a recent stretch of games, Fowles recorded some spectacular stat lines; and that’s probably a gross understatement.
7/11: 12 points, 19 rebounds in 38 minutes
7/6: 26 points, 18 rebounds in 36 minutes
7/3: 22 points, 12 rebounds in 34 minutes
7/1: 26 points, 11 rebounds in 31 minutes
6/27: 11 points, 17 rebounds in 37 minutes
For most players and coaches, the success of Fowles is no surprise. After she won the MVP award at the 2010 WNBA All-Star game, players were asked to comment about Fowles dominating performance of 23 points and 8 rebounds on 9-11 shooting. To a player, almost in unison, they stated that Fowles’ game was nothing short of extraordinary and would be a major key in Team USA’s hope for victory at World Championships in September and the Olympics in 2012.
It’s also no surprise that her contributions this season have vaulted her into legitimate MVP talk. She’s currently ranked in the top 10 of potential MVP candidates on WNBA.com not just for her double-double prowess but also for her efficiency; which at +25.2 currently leads the league. Still, when asked to evaluate herself so far this season, her modest answer might surprise you.
“I’d say I’m off to a good start, I guess,” said a humble Fowles. “I always feel I can do better. I’m learning different things and feel like I have a ways to go. I just love to compete. So, to answer your question, I’d rate myself as ‘ok’ but will continue to work hard to get better.”
If 20 and 10 every night is “just a good start,” what would need to happen for Big Syl to consider the 2010 season as successful?
“Making the Playoffs,” Fowles said without hesitation. “That’s what you work for. I’m very confident in our team and if we continue to play consistent and focus, we will win those close games we should have won. We are beginning to take care of the little things we didn’t do well in the first half of the season. Making the Playoffs would be very nice.”
If her stellar play this season has simply been “ok” according to Fowles, it’s undoubtedly a scary thought to opposing teams in the Eastern Conference what she would consider “great” or even “good.”
But that’s the appeal of Fowles and why so many people are thrilled she’s having such a phenomenal year. The “Gentle Giant” has worked through a difficult couple of years after being drafted No. 2 in the 2008 WNBA Draft. That hard work has paid off with the success she’s having in 2010.
It’s becoming increasingly clear – get the ball to Sylvia Fowles and good things will happen.