IN FOCUS: Sylvia Fowles
Communications Student Assistant
When former LSU women’s basketball player Sylvia Fowles was told her LSU jersey was being retired, she thought she received a prank call.
“I kind of paused for a minute,” Fowles said when LSU Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Joe Alleva informed her of the news. “When I asked if my jersey was really being retired he said, ‘Yes.’”
The Minnesota Lynx center immediately phoned her mom to inform her of the news. Both Fowles and her mother were surprised and overwhelmed with joy as they celebrated the moment together.
“We both just started screaming,” Fowles said. “I think that was the initial reaction I should have had when LSU called, but I wasn’t sure if it was real or not.”
The Miami, Fla., native is the second LSU women’s basketball player to have her jersey retired. Her jersey will be placed in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center next to former LSU women’s basketball player Seimone Augustus.
Fowles said she hasn’t been to Baton Rouge in eight years, but is looking forward to returning to LSU for her jersey retirement and catching up with the LSU Women’s Final Four teams from 2006, 2007 and 2008.
“I can’t even put it into words,” Fowles said about reuniting with her former teammates. “We haven’t seen one another in so long. I know we’re going to have a lot of laughs, maybe some crying, but for the most part I think we’ll have a good weekend.”
The 2015 and 2017 WNBA Finals MVP said when she thinks of the LSU Final Four teams, she thinks of the legacy former head coach Sue Gunter left behind.
“It all starts with Coach Gunter,” Fowles said. “When you try to put all those memories into perspective, you reflect on who Coach Gunter was and how she carried herself as a woman.”
Gunter coached the LSU women’s basketball team from 1982-2004. While at LSU, she was named SEC Coach of the Year in 1997 and 1999 and accumulated an overall record of 708-308. Gunter completed her career as the third-winningest women’s basketball coach in NCAA history behind Jody Conradt (Texas) and Pat Summitt (Tennessee).
“When I think of those Final Four teams, the memories and legacies that come to mind is Coach Gunter,” Fowles said. “I try to mimic her characteristics because she carried herself so well.”
Not only will Fowles be reunited with her LSU teammates, but she will be reunited with several of her favorite foods and restaurants.
“Of course, pork loins. That’s a must,” she said. “I want to get to Sammy’s Grill and Izzo’s Illegal Burrito.”
Fowles also mentioned she brought the Louisiana staples of Crystal Hot Sauce and Tony Chachere’s seasoning to the Olympic Games in 2008, 2012 and 2016.
“When I’m in Minnesota, Miami or overseas, I have to have those,” Fowles said. “I miss the food in Baton Rouge all the time.”
In preparation for the 2017-18 LSU women’s basketball season, Fowles said she is eager to meet and watch the new team in action.
“I’m curious to see what they are bringing to the table to be successful,” Fowles said. “I know it’s been a tough road for these girls, but I’m excited to meet them from that perspective.”
A few pieces of advice Fowles plans to give to the LSU women’s basketball team is to always be aware and leave behind a legacy. Fowles explained being aware of her surroundings has followed her since she graduated from LSU.
“You’re always a role model in someone’s mind, so you have to be aware all the time,” Fowles said. “When I was at LSU, I was asked by my coaches, ‘What legacy are you going to leave behind’ and ‘What can you do for LSU?’”
Fowles said she wants to share that same advice from nearly 10 years ago to the current LSU women’s basketball team. Fowles also stressed the importance of how many opportunities LSU provides to student- athletes.
“When I was at LSU, I had so many opportunities,” she said. “I want to make sure those girls realize that once I talk with them.”
Currently, Fowles juggles her professional career in the WNBA and the Women’s Chinese Basketball Association with her philanthropic work. Fowles started the Sylvia Fowles Family Fund in 2010. The Sylvia Fowles Family Fund provides for children in need.
“I was motivated to start the Sylvia Fowles Family Fund because of my upbringing,” Fowles said. “I was surrounded by people who were more fortunate than me, and they helped me stay focused. I’m very grateful for that and it led to the Sylvia Fowles Family Fund.”
She is also a spokesperson for Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE). Fowles has two nephews that suffer from epilepsy, and they inspired her to speak out about the disorder.
Fowles’ jersey retirement ceremony and recognition of the 2006, 2007 and 2008 LSU Women’s Final Four teams take place at the PMAC this Sunday, November 12. The jersey retirement ceremony will begin at 1:30 p.m., followed by the Lady Tigers’ game against Southeastern Louisiana at 2 p.m.