Brittney Sykes is ready to play basketball this year, wherever and whenever.
“You’re asking, am I going? Yeah, who doesn’t want to play basketball,” said LA Sparks guard Brittney Sykes. “I will be in (Bradenton), if that’s where we will be.”
Basketball is a constant in Britt’s life. It is part of her essence. However, Sykes is grateful for the precious time she’s been able to spend with her mother during Atlanta’s Stay At Home Order. It’s been simple but it’s something she doesn’t take for granted. Sykes usually doesn’t get a three-month break. The year-round professional plays overseas during the WNBA’s offseason.
Most recently, she’s spent time paying it forward. Sykes said it has been painful to watch the nation grapple with public health and social injustice pandemics. “It’s just one of those things where I want to keep educating myself and if I come across somebody of ignorance or of disbelief in what’s going on, to try to educate (them) and to pay it forward,” Sykes explained.
That’s one of the reasons the 26-year-old volunteered alongside her former teammate, Atlanta Dream guard Tiffany Hayes, giving away free groceries to those in need in Atlanta. Hayes is one of several players, who have decided to opt out of the 2020 WNBA Season. “I’m just making sure I use my platform as best as possible, as best as I know how to express myself. I do want to play basketball,” Sykes continued. “I’ve been making sure I stay in shape. We’ve all been in communication as a team. That’s one of our end goals is to be able to perform and win a ring.”
Long before being traded to the Los Angeles Sparks, Sykes realized “energy, attitude and effort” are the only three things she can truly control in this world. It is an orange mantra instilled in her during her freshman year at Syracuse University by her college coach Quentin Hillsman.
“That’s stuff that you don’t really need a skill set for,” said Syracuse University Women’s Basketball Coach Quentin Hillsman, aka Coach Q. “That’s something that you can do every day because you control that from your mentality standpoint.”
Sykes told Winsidr, Coach Q is one of a select few people on her board of personal advisors. Someone she can trust to not hold back constructive criticism and advice. “It’s funny because I get to call him and basically tell him that his ‘I told you so’s’ were true,” Sykes shared, while reflecting on a previous conversation with Coach Q about calling out switches on defense in the WNBA.
“I think now when she and I talk, she understands that my intentions for her are about her professionally,” Coach Hillsman added on the maturation of their relationship. Coach Hillsman believes Sykes’ game has translated well to the WNBA because of her athleticism. However, he said she can do more than stand out.
“Britt is amazing at playing her role. She’s amazing at accepting her role and doing what you ask her to do,” Coach Hillsman shared.
“She’s a very coachable player and when you get to those levels, at some point, everyone is talented in the WNBA. It’s the intangibles. Are you going to listen, are you going to be a great teammate, take care of your body and take care of your social life and she’s doing a solid job with all that stuff.” “It’s no benefit to me right now because she doesn’t play for me anymore. The only benefit is for her to be able to be the best player that she can be. Stay as healthy as she can and make the right decisions so she can play the game as long as she wants,” Coach Hillsman continued.
What Will Brittney Sykes Bring to The LA Sparks?
Brittney Sykes is ready to get out in transition and run. “The things that we’ve discussed are perfectly aligned with the things that I like to do. I like to get out in transition. I like to get back, help defend the paint. Get out, deny the ball, pressuring shooters,” Sykes said. “They also asked me what I felt comfortable with because I was a newcomer,” Sykes continued. She said that simple question made her feel like a valued member of the Sparks during the team’s preseason Zoom calls.
The Sparks traded center Kalani Brown, who was the team’s 2019 1st round draft pick, to the Atlanta Dream for Sykes and center Marie Gülich this offseason from the Atlanta Dream. “I think Brittney will have the opportunity at the wing position to not only earn minutes but potentially a starting spot,” said Sparks Head Coach Derek Fisher when initially asked about potential starting lineups after free agency.
“(We’re) getting a great guard in Brittney Sykes who is athletic and can defend,” added Los Angeles Sparks Assistant General Manager Michael Fischer. Sykes was the 7th pick in the 2017 WNBA Draft by the Dream. The Syracuse alum has averaged 11.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game over three seasons. In 2017, she made the WNBA All-Rookie team.
The Importance of Past Success
Entering her 4th season, Sykes is now an experienced WNBA veteran, with NCAA Tournament pedigree. In 2016, she helped lead Syracuse to the program’s first ever national championship game, in which they lost to UCONN. In 2018, Sykes played a pivotal role for the Atlanta Dream, helping them to the No. 2 seed in the 2018 WNBA Playoffs.
Sykes is looking forward to translating her previous experience into easy buckets from an elite passer like Chelsea Gray. “I’m glad to be on the other side of the highlight reel when it comes to Chelsea and her passes, so that will be dope to not be a defender and be on the receiving end to get her an assist or two. I’m looking forward to it, it’s going to be so much fun.” Ultimately, she is focused on the little things that add up to big results. “The job isn’t easier, the job is still the same, to come in and score, defend the ball, be a two-way player,” said Sykes.
Hillsman still sees Sykes as a player with untapped potential. “In a pinch, you can give the ball to her at the elbow and she can play off handoffs … I think she’s going to do really well there but the real reason why she’s going to do well besides her just being a very good basketball player is she’s going to do whatever she’s asked to do and she’s not going to complain,” Hillsman added. “That’s why she’s going to be able to adjust and adapt to that style.”
Meanwhile, Sykes prides herself on her ability not only to adapt but also connect with people. She is prepared to make a difference on and off the court. “I am able to instill that to others that look up to me or ask me questions,” Sykes said. “Narrow it down to the smallest thing possible and control your effort and energy and the rest will follow.”
As for the 2020 WNBA Season, Sykes said it is simple. The Sparks want to have five players thinking as one on the court. “We find the chemistry and it’s a done deal,” Sykes concluded.