|Sylvia Fowles accepts the Stars at the Sun MVP trophy from WNBA President Donna Orender after scoring a game-high 23 points to lead the US National Team to victory over the WNBA Stars.|
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images
The 2008 Olympics in Beijing was the last time the US National Team took the court in a major international competition. A quick look at that team’s roster shows the following post players: Lisa Leslie, Tina Thompson, Candace Parker
and Sylvia Fowles
When the US National Team begins the 2010 World Championships in September, the only player from that group that will wear the red, white and blue is Fowles. Both Leslie and Thompson have ended their USA Basketball careers and Parker is out after suffering a dislocated shoulder last month.
But considering the performance that Fowles put on during Saturday’s WNBA vs. USA Basketball game at Mohegan Sun, it appears the USA is going to be just fine in the post.
Fowles was named the Most Valuable Player of the game after scoring a game-high 23 points and grabbing eight rebounds in a performance more dominant than those numbers suggest. When the National Team pulled away from the WNBA Stars in the third quarter, Fowles was at her best, hitting layups and grabbing rebounds at will.
“That’s Sylvia. That’s what we need from Sylvia,” said USA teammate Diana Taurasi
. “That’s a responsibility she has to put on herself and we’re going to need games like that throughout our quest to bring back a World Championship.”
As important as Fowles’ performance was to the National Team on Saturday, Taurasi believes it is just as beneficial for Fowles herself.
“It’s huge for Sylvia, because Sylvia is someone that when she’s confident is unstoppable,” said Taurasi. “Then you see the other side of Sylvia, which is the passive side that we’re trying to elude from her body, because when she plays focused and determined there’s no one like her in the world.”
Fowles, Taurasi and fellow National Team player Sue Bird
have been teammates overseas the past few years, so the former UConn teammates have seen that side of Fowles’ personality for a while now.
“She’s just nice by nature, just very nice and gentle, a gentle giant,” said Bird. “So you have to get on her to get her to play that way. I’ve played over in Russia with her for the last two years and I know that. And when you do get on her, the best part about Syl is that she responds immediately. She might just need that kick in the butt.”
Between Bird, Taurasi, and of course coach Geno Auriemma, there will be plenty of people willing to give Fowles the push she may need to play at her best.
“The only person who can stop her really is herself, as cliché as that is, but it’s very true in Sylvia’s case,” said Bird. “Coach Auriemma knows that and he really gets on her and he wants her to be that dominant player. She had an okay first half but for her to respond the way she did in the second and just basically get every rebound and hit every layup, that was great and we’re going to need that from her.”
said it is the responsibility of Fowles’ USA Basketball teammates – herself included – to help Fowles continue to develop into a consistently dominant player.
“Great teammates bring people like Sylvia along and make sure that they are the best in the world,” said Cash. “It’s important because you’re only as good as the next person that you’re bringing with you on this team. If we look at it from that perspective, if we really focus on making sure the next person beside us is getting better, then it’s going to push you to get better.”
With the departure of Candice Dupree
from the Chicago Sky this offseason, Fowles has become the go-to player for her WNBA squad and says she is ready to accept a similar role on the National Team.
“It's a big role that I have to take on, but at the same time I played under Lisa and Tina for a year to learn a couple of things,” she said. “When you got great teammates like Diana to stay in your ear and get things done on the floor, I don't think you have no choice but to go out and compete to the best of your abilities every night.”
of the Indiana Fever is very familiar with Fowles as the two play for rival Eastern Conference teams in the WNBA. She was also on the opposing side of Fowles in Saturday’s game and had an all-too-familiar feeling.
“I see way too much of her,” Douglas said with a laugh. “I saw a lot of her tonight. I saw a lot of the back of her jersey and that’s not what I like to see because that normally means she’s scoring buckets. Obviously she’s a premier post in this league; she’s such a dominant force and demands so much attention.”
Cash is ready to see Fowles take the dominance she has flashed in the WNBA and on Saturday afternoon and show it to the entire world this September and beyond.
“She’s grown, but Sylvia can take it to another level,” said Cash. “I understand we need that in order for us to win at the World Championships and in order for us to win in 2012.
“I want her to dominate the world. I don’t want there to be another post player in the conversation with what she can do on the low block – both rebounding and offensively. I think she has it in her. It’s up to the players on the team to really encourage her to do that on a nightly basis. Tonight I was hoping she was going to get 40 (points). I was just really happy for her tonight because she stayed aggressive and I’m happy that she got MVP.”
As much as her teammates have rallied around her and helped her fulfill her enormous potential, Fowles understands that it is a part of the USA Basketball tradition to pass that same knowledge and experience on to the next generation of players, with WNBA rookie and National Team member Tina Charles
in line as the next dominant post player for the US.
“I had the year to play under Tina (Thompson) and Lisa and they taught me a lot and I’m just trying to carry that legacy and teach Tina (Charles) and the rest of the bigs that we have coming in to this team,” said Fowles.
“Geno made it very clear; we’re here for a reason. We’re here to teach the younger players like the older players used to teach us. We just have to keep working at it and keep getting better as the days go on.”