If her quiet
on-court dignity makes Fowles a bit of a throwback, so too do her hobbies,
which include sewing, knitting, cooking and braiding her teammates' hair. She
doesn't know how to play video games and doesn't want to learn. "I play
Guitar Hero," says Chaney, Fowles's roommate. "Sylvia plays the real
old-fashioned about her basketball skills, however. Seven years ago, when she
was a 6'3" ninth-grader at Edison High in Miami, Fowles became the first
female high schooler to dunk in a game, beating Parker to the mark by almost a
year. Though it's not a weapon she deploys often—she never dunked again in high
school and didn't do it in college until she slammed on Louisiana-Lafayette in
November—it is a hallmark of a thoroughly modern game. Covering the court with
a kind of regal lope, Fowles has no problem keeping up with her team's speedy
guards. "No big player has ever run the floor as well as she does, and
she's the best I've ever seen at catching the ball in a crowd," says
Chancellor. Once the ball is in Fowles's hands, her collection of soft hooks
and scoop shots hit their mark at a 60% clip. She's not bad at collecting
boards, either: Her 1,507 rebounds are just 18 shy of the SEC record, and she
holds the conference mark for career double doubles (82).
Her one glaring
weakness is her free throw shooting (64.8%), a deficiency she shares with
former Tigers star Shaquille O'Neal (page 100), who seeks out Fowles for
special teasing every time he visits campus. ( Shaq once introduced Fowles to a
group of student-athletes as "my future wife," much to her
embarrassment.) "There are a lot of comparisons to be made between Sylvia
and Shaquille," says Starkey, who was a men's assistant at LSU when O'Neal
played there from 1989 to '92. Besides being dominating fixtures in the paint,
"they are both very outgoing, very coachable and very popular with
teammates." Fowles's middle name, we kid you not, is Shaqueria—a name she
is considering attaching to the clothing line for tall women she plans to
her love for basketball and fashion design growing up in Liberty City, one of
the most dangerous neighborhoods in Miami. "My mom did everything she could
to raise us like a normal family," says Fowles, the youngest of Arrittio's
five children. "Inside the house we had everything we wanted. Outside was
tough. You saw a lot of things kids aren't supposed to see."
Morris did his best to steel her for the hard knocks of the basketball court.
"I'd be the only girl there, and he never picked me for his team," she
recalls. "Every time I'd drive to the hole, he'd foul me hard on the
concrete court. I'd have cuts on my arms and knees, and tears in my eyes, and
he'd say, 'You cry, I'm going to make you go home to your mama.' It made me
eventually took down Morris, who is now in a Florida prison serving a 25-year
sentence on a murder conviction. But a lot of people looked out for Sylvia,
including her grandmothers and great-grandmother, who kept her indoors on
weekends and taught her how to sew, and the guys in the neighborhood, who urged
her to run home as darkness fell. "They took care of the people they
thought had potential," she says.
Turns out they
were right about her. A WNBA career awaits, as does, very likely, a stint with
the U.S. Olympic team in Beijing. When Fowles completes her degree in general
studies in May '08, she'll be the first in her family to graduate from college.
But before that happens, she has one more chance to pull off another first:
leading the Lady Tigers to a championship.
important for us to win," say Fowles, "but win or lose, this is going
to be the year I've enjoyed the most. Every year, it seems, we've had somebody
else to play for—Coach Gunter, the hurricane victims, Coach Starkey. This year,
finally, we're playing for ourselves."