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updated: 4/18/2014 8:03 PM

Sky coach optimistic surgery won't stop Fowles

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  • Chicago Sky center Sylvia Fowles, right, had arthroscopic surgery last month on her hip and won't be able to open the WNBA when the Sky plays its first game on May 16 against Indiana.

      Chicago Sky center Sylvia Fowles, right, had arthroscopic surgery last month on her hip and won't be able to open the WNBA when the Sky plays its first game on May 16 against Indiana.
    Associated Press

 
 

Welcome to Chicago, Markeisha Gatling. And be careful!

It's been tough sledding for Chicago Sky centers lately.

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Gatling, a 6-foot-5 rookie center out of North Carolina State, was selected by the Sky Monday with the 10th pick in the WNBA Draft.

What seemed at the time to be a rather nondescript addition, compared to last year's blockbuster selection of superstar forward and eventual rookie of the year Elena Delle Donne, could now be a key piece to the puzzle for the Sky, which opens its season on May 16 with a home game against the Indiana Fever.

Gatling could be counted on heavily. And right away.

On Thursday, the Sky announced that franchise center Sylvia Fowles will be sidelined indefinitely for the upcoming season, due to a hip injury that required arthroscopic surgery on March 8.

If that wasn't disturbing enough, the Sky waived backup center Carolyn Swords this week, because she is injured, too.

"You know, it's part of the business. Things like this happen; players get injured," said Sky head coach and general manager Pokey Chatman. "We've got some options (at center) in addition to Markeisha. But I'm also very optimistic that Syl will be back sooner rather than later."

The same hip injury and surgery forced WNBA stars Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson to be sidelined for about three months. Fowles, who was walking the day after surgery, would be three months out from surgery in early June.

"If you look on the Internet about injuries like this, it will tell you that rehab can last anywhere from two to six months. And the thing is, you really never know because each person is different," Chatman said. "But I know Syl and I know the way she heals and the way she rehabs injuries, and she goes at it. She does everything you ask her to do and then some. It's just me saying this, but I think Syl will progress quickly."

The 6-foot-6 Fowles, a seven-year WNBA veteran who played in China from October to February, needed doctors to repair a torn labrum and impingement in her right hip. The injury was due to severe wear-and-tear over time, and the adjustment should lessen Fowles' everyday aches and pains while also help to extend her career.

"We definitely had Syl's long-term health in mind," Chatman said. "I think it was really good for her to have the doctors tell her that, 'Yes, something was wrong in there.' It's relieving for her to get it taken care of. It's fixed now and she'll come back and be ready to play like herself again."

Fowles averaged 16.3 points, 11.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game last season in leading the Sky to its first trip to the playoffs. She was also named the WNBA's defensive player of the year.

Fowles often played extended minutes last season because the 6-foot-6 Swords played in only 16 games. Swords went down with a season-ending knee injury in late July. She had been rehabbing her knee since then and cleared by her doctors in February.

Two weeks into her return, Swords reinjured the same knee while playing a game of 2-on-2 at her alma mater, Boston College.

"So then, we had two players at that position hurt," Chatman said. "Now you're faced with a tough situation and you have to make adjustments.

"When you're talking about Carolyn, you're talking about a quality player and a quality teammate, and on top of all that, a very quality person. It (waiving Swords) was extremely difficult because I know what she's put into this."

To fill the void, Chatman will look to Gatling and veteran centers Avery Warley (6-foot-2) and Sasha Goodlett (6-5).

"The pressure will fall to a few players," Chatman said. "We'll just hope they step up as we help Syl get better."

pbabcock@dailyherald.com

• Follow Patricia on Twitter @babcockmcgraw.

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