Who will step up for Sky if Fowles doesn't play?

  • With Chicago Sky center Sylvia Fowles demanding a trade, the biggest question for the defending Eastern Conference champions is this: Who will be manning the middle this season?

    With Chicago Sky center Sylvia Fowles demanding a trade, the biggest question for the defending Eastern Conference champions is this: Who will be manning the middle this season? Associated Press

 
 
Updated 5/29/2015 7:32 PM

Less than a week remains before the 2015 WNBA season tips off, and there's still no sign anywhere of Chicago Sky all-star center Sylvia Fowles.

Fowles has demanded to be traded to the Minnesota Lynx, but is stuck in limbo waiting for that unlikely deal to be made. She has said that if a trade can't be worked out, she will sit the season rather than return to the team.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

So with Fowles all but written off, the biggest question for the defending Eastern Conference champions heading into Friday's season opener against the Indiana Fever at Allstate Arena is: Who will be manning the middle this season?

With Fowles having been in the picture, it's a question that hasn't been asked for the last seven seasons. She's always been the center, and the centerpiece, of this team.

So now we've got a changing of the guard ... at center.

Three bigs -- Cheyenne Parker, Markeisha Gatling and Sasha Goodlett -- have split minutes in the Sky's three preseason games, but one seems to be emerging as head coach Pokey Chatman's favorite.

Parker, a 6-foot-4 rookie out of Middle Tennessee State, has gotten the most minutes, and has started the last two games. Rookie or not, Chatman says she won't be afraid to start Parker when the games actually mean something.

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"If an opportunity exists and your skill set warrants that attention, however long you've been here isn't going to play a part," Chatman said. "I'm one of those coaches that if you can get it done, I'm going to let you do it. It doesn't matter what school you went to or how many years you've played, if the results are there, I'm OK with going with it."

That's music to Parker's ears.

She went from being a grateful rookie who was just happy to be here, to a driven opportunist who suddenly sees the potential for starter's minutes. She's determined to seize the moment.

"I know there are some shoes that need to be filled. That excites me because I want to fill them. I want to be the one to fill them, and do even more," said Parker, who averaged 15 minutes per game during the preseason, along with 4.7 points and 5.3 rebounds. "Before the season started, Pokey and I talked about this. She said that Sylvia is not coming back and we need that dominant post presence. Since then, that's been all that's on my mind, making sure I'm ready. It's made me want to work harder."

Parker, known for her shot-blocking prowess, has been working hard for weeks. She got to training camp more than a week early to begin workouts with the coaching and strength staffs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"There are a lot of adjustments she has to make to this game," Chatman said of Parker. "It's a faster game, a faster pace. But she has done well picking things up. She's really excited to be here."

All of this is not to say that Goodlett and Gatling can't push their way into the starting lineup, too. Goodlett and Gatling both provided valuable minutes last season, with Goodlett even starting at the beginning of the season while Fowles recovered from off-season hip surgery.

There may also be times that Chatman uses a "center by committee" approach, and splits the minutes as she did during the preseason.

"The way we've approached it is that (the position) truly is up for grabs, which has made it exciting for all of them," Chatman said of Parker, Goodlett and Gatling. "They know they have a true chance to come in here and make their mark and be a part."

Point, times two:

While there's a changing of the guard at center for the Sky, there's an addition by addition at guard.

Chicago native and WNBA all-star Cappie Pondexter, who was acquired during the off-season from New York, is looking forward to working closely with Sky point guard Courtney Vandersloot.

Pondexter prefers playing shooting guard, but is also more than comfortable taking over the point when necessary.

"We're here to help each other," Pondexter said of Vandersloot. "One day, I'm not going to be totally there, or vice versa and that's when we pick each other up. It's almost like a sisterhood.

"I like playing the 2 (shooting guard) most, but I can play point, too and that could work out perfectly because I know that Sloot will need a breather. It will be perfect. We won't miss a beat. And I know I like having the ball in the hands anyway when the game is really on the line."

Quick count:

Here's the first Sky head scratcher of the season: Who has more tattoos, guard Cappie Pondexter or forward Tamera Young?

Both players clearly appreciate body art and are known to have some of the best, and among the most, tattoos in the league.

Pondexter got her first tattoo while at Marshall High School in Chicago. It is the WNBA logo with "The Future" written next to it. She says she's lost track of how many tattoos she has now.

"But I think she's got me. I think she's got more," Pondexter said of Young with a laugh. "It's all fun, and also (about) some boredom when you're overseas. But I like art. I like getting (tattoos)."

• Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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