Tye�sha Fluker knows she�s in the perfect situation. Drafted with the 10th overall pick in the 2006 WNBA draft to a Sting team desperately in need of another rebounding presence, Fluker enters training camp looking to provide an immediate contribution to the Sting�s frontcourt rotation.
Fluker is coming off her best season in the collegiate ranks, averaging 9.6 points and 4.8 rebounds her senior year while shooting 54.7 percent from the field, and many analysts regarded her as the best post player in the draft. Charlotte did not expect her to be available when the 10th pick rolled around, so needless to say, Sting General Manager Trudi Lacey and Head Coach Muggsy Bogues didn�t hesitate when the center from the University of Tennessee was still available.
Fluker, along with fellow rookie and third overall pick Monique Currie, is creating a buzz in Charlotte�s training camp this week. While Currie is expected to help bring instant offense from the perimeter, Fluker will be looked upon to become a rebounding presence inside for the Sting this season, as well as score in the paint.
�She can get after it,� Charlotte forward Sheri Sam. �She�s not afraid to get physical in the paint and is showing she will be ready to bang down there whether she�s a rookie or not.�
Fluker�s 6-5 frame definitely works to her advantage in bringing down the boards her coaches and teammates are beginning to expect from her.
�I just have to crash the boards and use my body to move people out,� Fluker said. �I don�t have to out-jump anybody, but rather use my strength, which is my body, to push them back and be able to attack the boards more aggressively.�
While the adjustment to the WNBA game can be a bit of a challenge, Fluker seems certain the transition will be made easier by maintaining a positive attitude and soaking up the advice of here teammates and coaches in her first year.
�It�s been a learning experience, just getting used to the game at this level,� admits Fluker. �Just getting used to the tempo, I just have to build on it everyday as far as being able to get up and down the floor with my teammates. They run a lot faster than they do in college. That is the biggest adjustment, along with learning the system, but I think all the veterans along with the coaching staff have done a good job of helping me along the way, so I am thankful for that.�
As a three-time All-SEC Academic selection, Fluker helped lead Tennessee to three Final Four appearances, two regular season SEC titles, two SEC tournament crowns and an overall record of 125-19 in her four-year career. Fluker also believes that playing for a program with such a winning tradition will prove helpful at the professional level.
�We played in some of the toughest games all season long -- every year,� she said. �After going through that for four years, it prepares you to be able to take that step forward to the next level.�
With the help of assistant coach Earl Cureton, Fluker is hoping her low post abilities will flourish and make her the force that the Sting have been longing for down low. With 12 years of NBA experience under his belt, Cureton is able to provide some valuable insight into the post position.
�Coach Cureton teaches me how to use my body all the way and how to push through certain things that I�m struggling with,� Fluker explained. �I�m not having perfect days out here. So it�s about learning how to push through certain things, and how to use my body in certain situations that occur during the actual game. I can learn a lot from him -- he was a good player back in the day.�
Hitting the so called �rookie wall� is something that Fluker doesn�t anticipate being a problem for her down the road either. Playing four season�s in legendary Tennessee Women�s Basketball Coach Pat Summit�s program instilled in her a strong mental toughness and the proper work ethic -- both key elements to a successful rookie season.
�Her system definitely helped because I can recognize some of the frustration I have been going through,� credits Fluker. �Just trying to stay with it, and push through certain things. If I hadn�t gone through that program I probably would�ve folded. It definitely helped me a lot as far as the mental aspect of the game is concerned.�
Fluker understands expectations are placed upon any athlete selected in the first round of the draft. Now she wants to waste no time making a name for herself in the league and make it perfectly clear why her name was called in the first round on draft day.
�I would like to start by establishing myself as one of the team�s best rebounders,� she said of her aspirations for her first season. �I just want to help my team out in the rebounding aspect, demonstrate patience on the offensive end and just let everything happen on it�s own. By accomplishing that, I just hope to have an overall solid rookie season.�