Augustus, Fowles return as U.S. women look to defend Olympic title
Two of the most accomplished players in LSU women’s basketball history will again don red, white and blue this summer with their sights set on helping lead Team USA to another gold medal.
Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles begin their second straight Olympic Games appearance when the heavily favored U.S. team meets Croatia on Saturday in the Olympic Park Basketball Arena. The game tips off at 10:45 p.m. CDT.
For both players, the Olympics are a chance to rekindle some old LSU memories.
“It feels good to see a fellow teammate from LSU and to kind of bond with each other,” Augustus said. “You don’t really get a lot of time with each other with our (WNBA) season being so hectic. So it’s nice to reunite.”
Fowles took a playful jab at her former teammate when asked about their memories together.
“Good memories, but the majority of it is Seimone getting on my nerves and being Seimone,” Fowles joked. “A lot of people think she’s quiet. She gets on my nerves a little bit.”
For teams like Australia, Russia and the rest, the prospect of knocking off the U.S. juggernaut is no laughing matter.
They may not have LeBron James, Chris Paul or Kobe Bryant, but the team Augustus and Fowles help lead is every bit as much the favorite to win gold. Consider the U.S. women went 5-0 in exhibition action — winning by an average of 33.6 points per game.
The Americans have won four straight gold medals. Their victory over Australia for gold in 2008 marked their 33rd straight win in an Olympic contest.
But both players said they like the favorite’s role and do not think it will create unwanted pressure.
“There’s no pressure,” Augustus said. “We have the best players in the world all together on one team. You just do your part and everything will work itself out.”
Added Fowles, “If we take one game at a time and focus on the little things, then the outcome will be big.”
Augustus and Fowles found big success during their two seasons as LSU teammates, leading the Lady Tigers to consecutive Southeastern Conference championships during the heart of the program’s golden era.
As the nation’s top recruit her senior year at Capitol, Augustus set the tone for LSU’s run when she bypassed a scholarship offer from Tennessee and decided to play college ball in her hometown.
Augustus took the Lady Tigers to their first Final Four her sophomore year. A year later, Augustus watched her new teammate from Miami dunk on an opponent from LSU’s all-male practice squad.
“From that day forward, it was an instant connection,” Augustus said. “We worked hard on and off the court to make each other better — better people, and better athletes.”
The Lady Tigers made it to two more Final Fours with their dominant one-two punch, then went back to the Final Four twice again as Augustus moved on to the WNBA and Fowles became the go-to threat for LSU as a junior and senior.
Former LSU assistant Bob Starkey said the personalities of the two were what set them apart.
Augustus attacked every drill with what Starkey called “Michael Jordan-like” intensity, while Fowles lit up the room with her contagious smile and her Shaq-like personality.
“Seimone kind of helped us learn how to compete,” said Starkey, now an assistant coach at Texas A&M. “Sylvia helped us keep things in perspective.”
Starkey said he gets as much out of watching Augustus and Fowles compete for the U.S. as he did coaching them.
“This will sound a little corny, but it’s an emotional experience to have your players representing our country,” he said. “Not only are they representing the country and LSU, but they’re making some tremendous contributions.”
In her fifth season with the WNBA’s Chicago Sky, Fowles has career averages of 16.3 points and 9.6 rebounds.
She hopes to duplicate the breakout performance she had at the Beijing Games, when she averaged 13.8 points and 8.4 rebounds to lead the U.S. team.
Augustus looks to continue what has been one of the more memorable stretches of her basketball life.
A year after leading Minnesota to its first WNBA championship, Augustus had the Lynx on top of the Western Conference when the league began a six-week break to accommodate the Olympics. She’s averaging 16.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists. Now she’s back with her old LSU teammate, chasing gold once again.
“There’s a lot going on once we get there from trying to get your Opening Ceremonies uniforms to every day there’s a game,” Augustus said. “You have to focus in on the main objective, the main goal, which is to get a gold medal. Try to enjoy the little moments when you can, but keep your eye on the prize.”