Breaking: With Fowles' surgery, Chicago Sky draftee may see bigger role

Breaking: With Fowles' surgery, Chicago Sky draftee may see bigger role
Chicago Sky center Sylvia Fowles had arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn hip labrum and impingement. She's out, but is expected back this season. Will 6'5 draftee Markeisha Gatling step up?

Chicago Sky center Sylvia Fowles,  the 2013 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year,  underwent arthroscopic surgery of the hip to repair a torn labrum and impingement. Fowles will be sidelined until she regains full motion, strength and functional ability of the joint.

No timetable for return was given, but the Mayo Clinic says the following about torn labrums of the hip:

“Many people are able to return to sports within four to six months after the surgery.” 

So we’re looking at sometime in July-September, maybe? No one is saying.

“Although it’s unfortunate, I know Sylvia will attack her rehabilitation with the mindset of returning this season even stronger,” said Sky Head Coach and General Manager Pokey Chatman. “Collectively we made a decision in the best interest of Syl’s long-term health and the long-term goals of this franchise.”

Fowles’ recuperation puts additional pressure on the Sky’s newest player, center Markeisha Gatling of North Carolina State, who was picked 10th overall on Monday at the WNBA draft. She will join the team when training camp opens on April 27.

Center Markeisha Gatling of NC State, picked 10th by the Chicago Sky in the WNBA draft. She may have some big shoes to fill

Center Markeisha Gatling of NC State, picked 10th by the Chicago Sky in the WNBA draft. She may have some big shoes to fill

The 6’5 Gatling will add depth and athleticism to the Sky’s frontcourt.  “This is a dream I’ve had since age nine, when I started playing basketball,” she told me by phone on Monday night, shortly after the draft.  She cites WNBA original Lisa Leslie as her role model, and says she “hopes to meet her,” now that she’s in the WNBA.

Gatling averaged 17.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game for NC State in the 2013-14 season. She scored 20+ points on 14 occasions and recorded five double-doubles. Gatling finished her senior season scoring in double figures in 31 straight games.

“When you watch Markeisha play you can see her ability to post and seal, and really be a physical presence in the paint,” said Sky Head Coach and General Manager Pokey Chatman at the time of the draft.  “She can help us set some screens and get some rebounds which is definitely something we need to add to the arsenal.”

In an ACC Tournament quarterfinal win over Syracuse, Gatling scored a career-high 28 points. Earlier in the season, she went on a streak scoring 20+ points in five consecutive games in December.

Gatling ranked 11th overall in scoring and 7th in offensive rebounds in the ACC last season.

Noted for her offensive efficiency, she finished as NC State’s all-time career leader in terms of field goal percentage (.628) and set a school single-season record for highest field goal percentage with .633 in her senior season. Gatling was named All-ACC Team First Team (Coaches; Blue Ribbon Panel) and Associated Press All-American Honorable Mention.

Rounding out the 2014 Draft were 6’2 forward Gennifer Brandon of UC Berkeley and 5’6 point guard Jamierra Faulkner from Southern Mississippi.

Brandon, averaged 7.8 points and 8.1 rebounds in the 2013-14 season. The redshirt senior forward returned ahead of schedule from an offseason injury to record seven double-doubles, including a 20-point performance against Washington State University.

She became just the fourth women’s basketball player in UC Berkeley history to score 1,000 points and collect 1,000 rebounds in a career. By the end of her senior campaign, Brandon had scored 1172 career points.  The redshirt senior was on the Wooden Award Watch list and Wade Watch list. She was also nominated for the Lowe’s Senior Class Award.

In the 2012-13 season, Brandon helped the Lady Bears to their first-ever Pac -12 Conference Championship, as well as their first Final Four appearance in school history.

Jamierra Faulkner rounded out the Sky’s 2014-draft class. The point guard from Southern Mississippi averaged 17.7 points, 8.6 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game in the 2013-14. She scored in double figures on 29 occasions, including 13 games with 20+ points and three games with 30+ points. In the 2013-14 season Faulkner led the NCAA in assists per game and breached the 2,000-point mark. She finished with 2,056 points.

Faulkner was a 2014 finalist for the prestigious Nancy Lieberman Point Guard of the year award.

“Each of these players brings a new dimension to our roster,” said Chatman, following the team’s 2014 WNBA Draft selections. “I’m excited to get them to Chicago and see how they fit them in our system once training camp begins.”

Gatling, in particular, could ease the loss of Fowles.  But Fowles, long the centerpiece of the Chicago Sky’s postseason hopes along with Elena Delle Donne and Ephiphanny Prince, remains an integral piece of the Sky’s drive to win the 2014 WNBA Championship.

The 6’6 center averaged 16.3 points and a league-best 11.5 rebounds in 32 games for the Sky last season. Fowles is the all-time leader in games played in a Chicago Sky uniform. After being selected second overall by the Sky in the 2008 WNBA Draft, she has played 166 games (159 starts) for Chicago. In each of the past three seasons, Fowles has led the WNBA in field goal percentage. She owns a .589 career field goal percentage. For her standout performance in the 2013-14 season Fowles was named WNBA Eastern Conference Player of the Month for July, August, and September and finished the season as the

Chatman is optimistic to have Fowles return to the court as an even stronger player than last season. The Sky will tip off the 2014 season at Allstate Arena on Friday, May 16.


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