Sylvia Fowles has never been shy.
“Sweet Syl” is always there to greet others — whether it’s her family, her teammates, or the loyal Lynx fans she’s come across in her five years in Minnesota — with a big ol’ smile and a hug, as difficult as that may be during the current period of social distancing.
But Fowles never had to be the loudest on the court during the early years of her Lynx tenure. Lindsay Whalen was the floor general, the on-court commander of her home state’s team on both the offensive and defensive ends. Rebekkah Brunson, whose five WNBA championships are more than any other player in history, was a complementary veteran presence to Whalen in the Lynx locker room. And then there was Seimone Augustus: the Lynx’s 2006 No. 1 overall draft pick had seen it all in a decade-plus with the team; her experiences a tool box of immense depth to mentor young players.
But as Whalen and Brunson retired, and Augustus searched for greener pastures on the west coast, it’s Fowles who has become the leader for the Lynx by default. Trusting in the 2017 WNBA Most Valuable Player to be a leader was a no-brainer for Head Coach and General Manager Cheryl Reeve, despite it being new ground for Fowles.
“I definitely feel like I’m now in my comfort zone, but it took practice too,” Fowles said on Saturday.
“Once we got back into camp, Cheryl pulled me over to the side and pretty much was like ‘Just a reminder: I don’t need you to jumping in on every play, but I want you to be more vocal to make sure [younger players are] getting through stuff.’ It flowed easy.”
So far into 2020 Training Camp has been a mentor for younger frontcourt players that are newer to team like Kayla Alexander and Damiris Dantas. Pulling them aside often to make sure they’re grasping the Lynx’s defensive scheme.
“Coach wanted me to get out there and be a vocal leader and put people in their place; see what they see from the sidelines,” Fowles said of taking players under wing. “I think that’s a challenge with me, but I’m willing to step up to the plate.”
To make the transition to leader a little smoother, Fowles is doing it alongside two of her former frontcourt partners. Plenette Pierson, who won a championship with Fowles in 2017, is in her second season on the Lynx coaching staff. Brunson, Fowles’ teammate from 2015-18, was named an assistant coach this past winter.
“Having Plenette and [Brunson] around as coaches has been relaxing,” Fowles explained. “Both of them bring something different to the table. Plenette is more of a ‘Make sure everybody’s energy is ok, make sure everybody is ok.’ And BB is that coach that just wants you to go out there and get it done. They bring something different, but it’s good to have a combination out there on the floor.”
As Fowles, Brunson, and Pierson transition to different roles with the Lynx, fans can hope the three can yield similar results to their past accomplishments.