BATON ROUGE, La. — After walking away from her fourth and last appearance in a Final Four, Sylvia Fowles had a career in professional and international basketball awaiting her.
BATON ROUGE, La. — After walking away from her fourth and last appearance in a Final Four, Sylvia Fowles had a career in professional and international basketball awaiting her. It wasn’t long before she was named to the WNBA’s all-rookie team, went on to win Olympic gold with Team USA in China, and then earned EuroLeague center of the year honors while playing in Moscow last winter. On Friday, Fowles will be back in Baton Rouge to receive an honor that has nothing to do with basketball but still means a lot to her. She’s officially graduating from LSU. "This is at the top of the list," she said. "That’s the main thing we all strive for when we go to college." Shortly after the 2008 Final Four, Fowles, then the Southeastern Conference player of the year and national college defensive player of the year, was drafted by the WNBA’s Chicago Sky. She left school two credits shy of graduating. Fowles, a general studies major with a concentration in communications, sociology and sports studies, worked toward finishing her degree work while in the Russia. Following early morning workouts and practice, she turned her focus to class work assigned by the LSU Academic Center for Student-Athletes. Fowles said she was determined to see through on her promise to her mother to finish college. "My mom constantly stressed academics and she wasn’t really into sports," Fowles said. "I can remember a lot of times during my high school and college career where she didn’t care about the glamour and the fame of being an All-American and playing basketball. She wanted me to work hard." Fowles, a Miami native, was the youngest of her mothers’ five children, but will be the first to graduate from college. "It says a lot about how much my mother means to me and how she prepared me for this," Fowles said. "I have a lot of nieces and nephews, and they can look up to me and see if I can do it, they can too." Erica White of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever and LSU senior Kristen Morris also are expected to take part in Friday’s commencement ceremonies at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, where they also played for four seasons. For associate women’s basketball coach Bob Starkey, Fowles’ return for commencement is somewhat reminiscent of Shaquille O’Neal’s return to campus in 2000 to get his degree. Starkey, a former men’s assistant, coached both Fowles and O’Neal. "It will be a proud moment for me to see Syl walk across the stage and receive her degree," Starkey said. "In a time where superstar athletes sometimes move on without completing their degree work, both Sylvia and Shaquille have sent a strong message to young people on the importance of an education." Fowles said she’ll be happy to be back in Baton Rouge for another reason. Namely, Louisiana’s capital has taken on as much a feeling of home, if not more, than south Florida. "It’s true," Fowles began. "I come home to Miami, but a lot of people don’t know me like everyone in Baton Rouge and the fans. Baton Rouge and LSU has been my home." ______ Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.