Friends to square off when Storm host Dream (Jul 14, 2017)

BY AP • July 14, 2017

SEATTLE -- Brittney Sykes and Breanna Stewart go way back.

So it shouldn't have come as a surprise that when Sykes was selected No. 7 overall by the Atlanta Dream in the WNBA draft this spring, she told her mother and high school coach she was going to be the league's Rookie of the Year, following in the footsteps of Stewart, who won the award last year with the Seattle Storm.

Sykes certainly has put herself in contention.

The former Syracuse guard ranks second among WNBA rookies in scoring (10.1 points per game) and is third in rebounds (3.6) and minutes (19.8).

"It's just something, you set a goal for yourself,'' Sykes told "I didn't waste any time. I know I deserved to be in the WNBA. Now that I'm here, I want to reap the benefits.

"It just fuels me. People still doubt. There are doubters, there are supporters. Getting the rookie of the year would be a shut-up factor, a husher.''

Sykes and the Dream (8-9) travel to Seattle to take on the Storm (8-10) on Saturday night at KeyArena. The Dream currently hold the No. 7 playoff spot, with the Storm percentage points behind Dallas for the eighth and final postseason berth.

Sykes became good friends with Stewart when the former was being recruited by the Orange and the latter was a star at Cicero-North Syracuse High School.

The teams met earlier this season, with Atlanta winning 91-86 in overtime in Seattle. Stewart scored 16 points and Sykes had nine.

The night before that game, Sykes watched Game 5 of the NBA Finals at Stewart's apartment in Seattle.

"It was just cool. We don't get to see each other a lot. We don't talk every day. We don't need to,'' Sykes told "If you need me, I'm one to text anyways.

"We talk our trash (on the court). We make our jokes. It's a job. But you end up having fun.''

Stewart, a four-time NCAA champion and three-time NCAA player of the year while at UConn, has scored 20 or more in the past five games, including a season-high 30 in a July 1 victory at Dallas. She scored a career-high 38 against Atlanta last summer.

"(Stewart) can hurt you in a lot of different ways when she lets the game just come to her and plays within the rhythm of the game," Storm coach Jenny Boucek told The Seattle Times. "She's a real instinct player, a real rhythm player. When she can catch the rhythm of the game, she's pretty tough to stop."

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