The Chicago Sky selected Sylvia Fowles with the No. 2 pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft.
(David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images)
While she has grown to love the game and is excited about joining the WNBA, playing basketball was not her first choice as a child.
“My older brother Walter, and my second oldest brother Morris, who is not here with us today, those were the two that introduced me to basketball,” Fowles said. “I always liked it, but I never wanted to play for school. I always tried to follow in my mom’s and my sister’s footsteps and run track. But going into the eighth grade I grew like four inches and my mom was like, 'It’s about time for you to do something else.'
“I remember that day I cried really hard and said, ‘I don’t want to play basketball. I don’t want to play basketball.’ I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but I ended up loving it.”
There will likely be tears shed in Tampa today by the Fowles family, but they will be those of joy as Sylvia takes the next step in her life and becomes a WNBA player.
I am spending draft day shadowing Fowles in order to get a glimpe of what the day is like for a draftee. I will speak to her as she gets ready, just prior to the draft, just after she is selected and near the end of the day to try to see how her mood changes and see the draft vicariously through her eyes.
Draft day begins a bit earlier than Sylvia Fowles had originally planned.
“I woke up this morning about 6:00 and I couldn’t go back to sleep for some reason,” she says. “I was so anxious that I couldn’t sleep, but I’m so happy that this moment is here. Not just for me, but for the rest of the girls as well because I know we’ve been waiting for this moment.
“I can recall at the McDonald’s All-American and the WBCA games and we just talked about getting to this point, but for it to finally be here is amazing. It’s been a thrill.”
Fowles getting her makeup done the morning of the draft.
She is wearing a white dress shirt coupled with a vest and pants that are black with silver pinstripes and tops off her outfit with a matching fedora crowning her 6-foot-6 frame.
“I wanted to do something that was black and classy,” she says. “My best friend - Temeka Johnson for those that don’t know - helped me pick it out. It was a hassle at first trying to find something, but one of her friends gave her a website that I could go look at and it was just that easy. Within a couple of hours I found the outfit that I could wear. So that’s my favorite website now. I definitely have that bookmarked.”
Fowles has always taken an interest in fashion. She enjoys sewing and would like to design clothes for tall women; something she believes there is a definite need for.
“This process (of trying to find an outfit for draft) actually did top it off,” she says. “But growing up, I never found pants that were long enough; I never found shoes that were big enough for my feet. It just used to be a hassle. Everybody would look nice and you would look average and that was very aggravating. Just for somebody to market something for tall women and not just women that are tall and big, but tall and slim. I think that would be a good thing.”
Fowles takes a photo with Stanford's Candice Wiggins prior to the draft.
“We’re been in here acting funny and clowning just a little bit because we’re getting a little bored," Fowles says. “I got my makeup done and my hair done. I’m feeling like a superstar right now. We’ve got first-class service.”
With her hair done, I ask if she is ditching the hat.
“No, I’m still sporting the hat, but I had to get the ends done so they can just see the ends flow and blow with the wind,” she says.
This draws a round of laughter from the other players in the room, especially LSU teammate Quianna Chaney, Maryland’s Crystal Langhorne, North Carolina’s LaToya Pringle and Rutgers’ Matee Ajavon, who are sitting at the table with Fowles.
Bonnie Thurston, the WNBA’s manager of player programs, goes over the timeline with the players so they know where to go and what to do when their name is called by WNBA President Donna Orender.
The players all make their way from the green room to the draft room, where each player has a designated table close to the stage. Fowles couldn’t ask for a much better seat as she is dead center in the room in the second of three rows of tables set up for each of the 20 soon-to-be draftees. Fowles is joined at her table by her mom (Arrittio), her aunt (Sylvia Ann), two of her brothers (Walter and Jeremy) and her uncle (Walt).
Sylvia Fowles poses for a photo with WNBA President Donna Orender after being selected by the Chicago Sky with the No. 2 pick.
“I’m really overwhelmed," Arrittio Fowles said. “I’m just glad for this day to be here. I’m so very proud of her and I can’t wait to see where she goes.”
After doing a walkthrough, Fowles and the other players find their tables and get ready for the draft to begin.
“I was fine while we were in the waiting room, but then we had to come out here and I just caught the jitters," says Fowles. "I think they’re good jitters though. For the most part, I’m happy and I’m excited and I can’t wait to see where I’m going.”
"With the second pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft," says Orender, "the Chicago Sky select Sylvia Fowles of Louisiana State University."
It’s official. Fowles gets hugs and kisses from her family and heads to the stage where she is greeted by Orender and handed a Sky jersey for her photo-op with the league president.
After doing an interview with ESPN and an online chat with fans for WNBA.com, Fowles is escorted out of the draft room and begins a whirlwind of photographs, interviews, autograph signings and phone calls.
“This feels great!” she exclaims when I catch up to her just before she meets with the press. “I’ve known the entire time that Chicago was the place that I would probably be and just to get the jitters out and know where I’m going, it feels so much better. I’m just anxious to see what it will be like in Chicago.”
With former LSU teammate and new Sky teammate Quianna Chaney.
“I haven’t been in Chicago in a while. I went there in high school to play in a tournament,” she says. “All I remember is that it was really cold during that time. Good thing the WNBA plays in the summer. I’m excited about that. I can’t wait to go and meet and greet the city and let everyone know that I’m there and get things flowing. Let’s go."
Less than an hour later Fowles gets even more good news as the Sky select Chaney, her LSU teammate, with their second-round pick.
While she knew Chicago players Armintie Price and Candice Dupree already, she says having someone like Chaney, who was her roommate at LSU, there with her will help ease the transition to the WNBA.
“What more would you want than to be able to play with a player like Q,” Fowles says. “I’m just so happy that we’ll be in Chicago together. It will be nice to have a familiar face around and just to be able to relate to somebody and have her around because I’ve known her for the last four years at LSU. It just adds onto my happiness.”
I meet up with the Fowles family and LSU head coach Van Chancellor to get their thoughts on what this day means.
“Words cannot describe how proud I am of her today," brother Walter says. “She followed directions, she stayed with it and stuck with it, even though she didn’t want to do it at first. She did it for Mom and did it for me and got the job done and we’re very proud of her.”
Walter says it wasn’t until after winning her first championship at Edison High School in Miami that his sister grew to love the game of basketball.
The top three picks in the 2008 WNBA Draft: Candice Wiggins, Candace Parker, and Sylvia Fowles.
Chancellor, who coached in the WNBA for a decade and won four championships with the Houston Comets, believes Fowles has only scratched the surface of the player she can become.
"She’s going to be unbelievable (in the WNBA),” he says. “She’s got the most upside of anybody drafted even though she was second because she’s a great defensive player and a tremendous rebounder. Her offensive skills are only going to get better and better.”
As the draft comes to a close, I track down Sylvia one last time to get thoughts on the day after she’s had a few hours to let things sink in.
“The whole day has been amazing,” she said. “From the waiting part, to having to get makeup, to having to get dressed and sitting up there being anxious with bubble guts about where you’re going. Everything has been a thrill. From the kids in the stands, to signing autographs and taking pictures, I wouldn’t change it for the world.”