You probably know by now that Chicago C Sylvia Fowles, aka “Big Syl,” is the “Big Splash” of the international basketball scene. She dunked at the All-Star game in Paris, was a nice inside complement to Diana Taurasi in helping Spartak Moscow defend its EuroLeague championship, and was honored earlier this month as the center/import/defensive Player of the Year.
Healthy from a knee injury that limited her to 17 games her rookie WNBA season, Fowles seemed to receive the perfect antidote for sophomore campaign that’ll help carry over the overseas success — a true point guard. Chicago drafted Maryland star Kristi Toliver with the third pick in the April 9 draft.
The Sky could’ve picked Connecticut PG Renee Montgomery, who plays better defense and might be a better locker room leader, but the Sky didn’t need either of those attributes. Toliver (pictured right by NBAE) is a proven shooter, can setup the offense and allows the athletic Sky more options in the backcourt with veterans Dominique Canty and Jia Perkins, who are true shooting guards that filled the position out of desperation. Add the electric forwards Armintie Price and Candice Dupree and coach/GM Steven Key could wiggle his way into his first postseason picture. Plus, Toliver could play the national anthem on her trumpet or maybe jam with the drum line at appearances.
OK, maybe that’s taking it a biut far. But Toliver should mix well in Chicago without the worry about building chemistry. She played against Price and Fowles in college and was familiar with Dupree’s game at Temple. The main thing for Toliver, as with any rookie, will be getting used to the WNBA’s grinding schedule and the physicality of play in the Eastern Conference.
In other moves, Key picked up former Storm Shyra Ely, who could add depth inside with her defense, although she was overshadowed last season in Seattle. The Sky also drafted wing Danielle Gant of Texas A & M in the second round and G Jennifer Risper of Vanderbilt in the third. But it’s doubtful either makes the roster with the talent already available and the Sky not needing smaller contracts to stay under the $803,000 salary cap.
Don’t be surprised if Gant pops up on another roster, however.
“We’re going to do a good job of transferring [potential] from paper to the court to results,” Key told the Chicago Tribune.
Many pegged the Sky a playoff team the minute Fowles was drafted, but the knee injury attributed to their 12-22 finish. It’s still going to be tough to break through with last season’s playoff teams Indiana, New York, Connecticut and defending champion Detroit also getting stronger through trades and the draft. But Fowles is a special player who just needed a true backcourt and health on her side to display those talents on the pro level.
It’s working in Russia with Storm PG Sue Bird. Chicago will see if Toliver can work her way to be that version in the WNBA.