This series will cover the WNBA’s 21st season with at least one story on the league weekly from the season’s May 13 opening to its closing on September 3 and through the 2017 playoffs
Her third year on the team thus far seems to be the charm for Sylvia Fowles, the 6’-6” Minnesota Lynx center, now a 10-year WNBA veteran. After an unbeaten May and two player of the week honors, last week Fowles was named Western Conference Player of the Month.
But perhaps the best May honor she received thus far is that her college jersey number 34 will be retired by LSU during the next college basketball season. A 2015 LSU Hall of Fame inductee, Fowles’ number 34 will join those of Shaquille O’Neal and Pete Maravich as the 12th athlete there with jerseys hanging in the arena rafters.
Additionally, she joins current Lynx and former LSU teammate Seimone Augustus, whose jersey was retired in 2010, as the school’s only women basketball players so honored.
“It’s a long time coming,” declared Augustus, “to have her jersey in the rafters with me, Shaquille O’Neal and Bob Pettit. She’s done amazing things in her college career as well as her professional career. I’m fortunate enough to see her growth.”
“I’m always blessed,” Fowles told me. “It says a lot. I’m grateful.”
She could’ve bragged but didn’t about her LSU numbers — she holds school records in rebounds, blocked shots, and free throws attempted and made. Nor did she mention her three-time league-best defensive player of the year awards or her three Olympic gold medals.
“I never thought about it,” said Fowles.
“I’m proud of her,” said Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen, whose jersey also was retired by her alma mater, Minnesota. “I hope I can make it down for the ceremony. It would be fun to part of that.”
But what has been the most fun thus far for both Augustus and Whalen is to see feistiness from their low post teammate as Fowles this season has put her push to others’ shove during games.
“At times we’ve seen her back down a little bit,” explained Augustus. “Now we are seeing more emotion, to be just as aggressive as people have been with her. It took a little while, but it’s here and I’m happy for her.”
Fowles is in her second full season in Minnesota playing alongside her college teammate. “That’s something she and I talked about all the time in college,” said the player of her and Augustus one day being on the same pro team. But Chicago selected her second overall in the 2008 Draft: “Once I got drafted, we kept it realistic,” said Fowles on their friendship.
But a few years later she made it known that she wanted out of Chicago and was willing to sit out the 2015 campaign to solidify her request. “She [Augustus] reached out when times were very tough for me,” Fowles recalled.
The Roberta Flack-Donny Hathaway “Back Together Again” reunion didn’t finally take place until the 2015 All-Star break when Fowles became the key piece in a three-team trade that brought her to the Twin Cities. She’s now fully anchored as a Lynx.
“Having Sylvia changes so many things,” noted Lynx forward Maya Moore of Fowles. “She’s a traditional center. She wants to score in the paint. It opens things up. The more Syl and I play together, it’s a great pick and roll combo.
“She enjoys our team. It’s exciting to watch her in Minnesota,” said Moore.
Yes, she said it…
“[I’m] increasing my IQ at every game, every practice. I’m making sure I do right by this team,” says San Antonio rookie and Minneapolis native Nia Coffey of her first year thus far.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.