For Sky's Fowles, WNBA award a family honor
There was no mercy, no sympathy.
If a young Sylvia Fowles wanted to play basketball on her hoop at home, she had to keep up with her three older brothers.
Walter, Morris and Jeremy were tough on Sylvia. They pushed her, they knocked her down and played lock-down defense every time she touched the ball.
It was the kind of defense Fowles plays now, the kind of defense that has earned the Chicago Sky center one of the highest honors in the WNBA.
On Thursday, Fowles was named the WNBA's defensive player of the year. She received 19 of 40 votes from the media, one more than former Stevenson star and Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings, a four-time defensive player of the year.
"I'm very excited to win this award," Fowles said from her hometown of Miami, where she is visiting with family and friends until she leaves in December to play in Turkey. "It gives you a sense of hope that people recognize you and what you do and the hard work you put in throughout the season."
This is the first time in Fowles' four-year career that she has earned the award, and she was quick to credit her brothers.
"(Playing tough defense) comes from my brothers," Fowles said. "They knocked me down. They pushed me around.
"They couldn't do that now, though."
Fowles, the WNBA's top shot-blocker for the second year in a row (2 bpg), says she is now taller than all three of her older brothers. She's also much stronger than she was when they easily out-muscled her. WNBA players are reminded of Fowles' strength every time they try to post her up or body her for a rebound.
Not an easy task.
Fowles is tough to outmaneuver or shoot over in the paint. And this season she was a monster on the boards and wound up sharing the league lead in defensive rebounds (7.3 per game). She also ranked second in overall rebounding at 10.2 rebounds per game.
"I rely on my size a lot," the 6-foot-6, 200-pound Fowles said. "I also have good timing and I try to be smart. I'm well-rounded defensively."
Fowles also isn't too shabby on the offensive end.
She led the league in field goal percentage (59 percent) and finished third in scoring (20 ppg), which allowed her to become just the second player in WNBA history to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in the same season.
You get the feeling Fowles would exchange it all for a spot in the WNBA playoffs, which are about to reach their pinnacle. On Sunday, Game One of the WNBA Finals between the Atlanta Dream and the Minnesota Lynx gets under way (7:30 p.m., ESPN).
The Sky once again failed to make the playoffs, leaving the franchise without a single postseason appearance in its six-year history. That gnaws at Fowles, the face of the franchise.
"I'm already looking forward to next year," Fowles said. "I'm continuing to work hard and work on some things I need to do better.
"As a team, we need to get going from the get-go next year, and that needs to happen from Day One in training camp. We can't wait until the season has already started to get going."
Patricia Babcock McGraw covers the WNBA for the Daily Herald and also is a color commentator for Chicago Sky broadcasts.