Web Editorial Associate
Coming into the 2017 season, Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve had high expectations from her center Sylvia Fowles.
Expectations such as her creating a consistent presence in the post for the Lynx, one that would become a dominant force in the WNBA for this season and beyond.
“It’s something that we talked about last year at our exit meeting. What she had planned for me this year and how she wanted me to take on a different role,” Fowles said. “Me coming here early and working out with her a week before the team got here and her showing me a few things, showing me a few shots where she wants me to become comfortable in . . . I can definitely say I see a difference in last year to this year.”
Through the first four games of the season, Fowles has become that dominant player Reeve envisioned.
“I want it to be where there is no scheme that she can’t handle, and that our team can’t handle,” Reeve said. “It requires Sylvia to evolve more as a player so we can do that and also it requires me to have a greater emphasis on getting her the ball in good spots. . . She has to be able to, whenever she gets a touch, something really good happens.”
In four games for the Lynx, Fowles has led Minnesota in numerous categories, averaging 21.5 points (tied for 4th in the WNBA), 10.8 rebounds (3rd in WNBA), 2.8 blocks (2nd in WNBA), 2.3 steals (tied for 3rd in WNBA) and 1.3 assists per game.
She has shot 59.6 percent from the field (8th-best in WNBA) and has gone 75 percent from the free throw line during that span.
“I just want to be more aggressive. Whatever coach Reeve needs me to do,” Fowles said. “I think I will be part of more of an offensive threat this year and I think she will get me involved more. Other than that, I just want to be myself and do whatever the team needs me to do.
“In (Reeve’s) opinion, I am somewhat conservative. She is trying to get me to psycho mode,” Fowles said. “I know what it takes to get there.”
As for her performances during the first week of the season, Fowles was recognized for her efforts. Last Monday, Fowles was named the WNBA’s Western Conference Player of the Week. It was the sixth time she has received the honor and the first time she has done so with the Lynx.
“I definitely have to give a lot of credit to my teammates. I can’t do it by myself,” Fowles said of receiving the award. “Those girls get me into the right positions at the right time, they feed me ball and they encourage me to go out there and do what I do best every night. I’m happy to receive the award.”
In 2016, Fowles averaged 13.9 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 1.3 steals and 1.2 assists per game. This year, the 10-year veteran has improved in every category so far.
Compared to last year, Fowles is up 7.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, one block and one steal this season.
“I think she really understands how much we need her right now to be a defensive stopper and to get us great position and score in the paint,” Rebekkah Brunson said. “She has an understanding of all those things and she has embraced it and she is willing to do everything it takes for us to win. She’s an important person as far as our offense and our defense is concerned and I think she understands that.”
Sure, it’s been a small sample size so far this year, having only played four games. But the improvement that we’ve witnessed is impossible to ignore.
Fowles has been a big piece to the Lynx since she was acquired via trade in 2015. But so far this season, she has taken her game to another level, proving to be another tool for Minnesota as it gears up for another run at a championship in 2017.
“I like a challenge and I push myself a lot. I’m my biggest critic. Just having that mindset that I am one of the best at what I do and nobody can really stop me once I put my mind to it,” Fowles said. “You have to step back as a player and think about what is it that you can do better. . . We are focused in on this year.”
And as for if she thinks she can be stopped when she is focused and in the zone during a game?
“No,” she said. “Simple as that, no.”