Stars Come In All Shapes And Sizes

One is a 6-6 behemoth, 206 pounds of muscle and wound aggression, crashing the boards and swatting away opponent's shots like her life depended on it.

The other is a spunky 5-3 gnat, all fire and energy, with enough zip and speed to break down even the most stout opposing defense.

They are the very incarnation of David and Goliath, a giant who strikes terror into the hearts of opponents upon first sight, and a diminutive point guard who looks like she is capable of putting up about half the numbers she actually contributes.

In any other profession their paths may never have crossed – indeed, it is still strange to see the two of them together on a basketball court, where freshman Sylvia Fowles' 6-6 frame seems much more at home than senior Temeka Johnson's slight 5-2 body.

But for the 2004-05 season at least, the oddest of odd couples are teammates on the No. 2-ranked Lady Tigers basketball team, and the duo are both wrecking havoc against opponents in their own remarkably different ways.

But beyond having their names listed in the stat sheet as LSU's second and third-leading scorers respectively this season, Fowles and Johnson will forever be associated by another, slightly more humorous link: a growth chart.

When the LSU Athletics Department regained ownership of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center during the summer of 2004, it set about renovating the dilapidated building, beginning with a complete overhauling of the concourse.

One of the new additions visitors will notice is a wall featuring life-size photos of Fowles, Johnson, and several other Tigers and Lady Tigers from opposite ends of the height spectrum, where Tiger fans young and old can see who they measure up to closest: Fowles and men's basketball star Brandon Bass, or Johnson and All-American gymnast April Burkholder.

While most will undoubtedly be closer to Johnson and Burkholder than Fowles and Bass, fans who hope to one day look down upon opponents from Fowles' 6-6 vantage point can now monitor their progress in that direction, thanks to a quirky marketing promotion that saw the image of the women's basketball players turned into a growth chart.

"I don't know if the idea originated with (head coach Pokey Chatman), but that's who told us," said Johnson.

"That was back before the season started when had to take our pictures for the Internet and everything," added Fowles.

While the team was assembled having head shots and promotional photos taken for the team media guide and biographical pages, Fowles and Johnson were taken aside for the growth chart photo by LSU photographer Steve Franz. While the experience itself was quick, taking only an hour, it was far from painless, as Johnson can attest.

"I picked on her the whole hour," said Fowles. "She got mad at me because I told her she was so small she only came up to the middle of my back."

"She always picks on me, I get all the small jokes," said Johnson. "I do (come up to the middle of her back), it's ridiculous. But when she tells me something I tell her to trade places, and she looks at me like I'm crazy."

The Lady Tiger duo remained on the floor after LSU's win over Arkansas on January 20 to sign copies of the growth chart for the fans who attended the game, and maintained they are both still taken aback by the sheer number of people who come out to support the team each time it takes the floor.

"Oh man, the fans are awesome, even when we had our downfalls," said Fowles. "When we come out sluggish they still support us, they're true fans. We had some come to Florida, they support us a lot."

Johnson, who has started 110 straight games for LSU at point guard, has seen the PMAC crowds swell from barely 1,000 when she first attended, to over 14,000 when Tennessee traveled to Baton Rouge two years ago.

"Its coming along, women's basketball period is coming along," said Johnson. "We get people that come up to us just to say, "Job well done," and we appreciate it.

"It makes us feel appreciated and recognized, it shows us how many people are out there taking an interest in our sport."

Despite the obvious physical differences between the two, Fowles and Johnson were both firm in their agreement that the crowds that pack the PMAC each week to see the Lady Tigers play often play a huge role in pushing the team over any physiological barriers they may face.

Just as the players themselves come in all shapes and sizes, so do the crowds, and they are all appreciated equally.

"It's tremendous, they give us the extra burst," said Johnson. "When you hear the fans and they're screaming, even when you're in a slump they get in behind you. You can tell, when we do something and they get all crazy it gives us that extra burst, we love to see them out there."

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