Entering high school, Channon Fluker had never played organized basketball. She had no plans to even try out for the team at John Muir High School in Pasadena her freshman year until her older brother, Collin, got through to her and encouraged her to give it a shot.
“It was just finally listening to my brother,” Fluker said. “He encouraged me to at least just walk in and see what the team is about at my first high school. And I finally tried it out.”
It’s safe to say that she passed her tryout. Eight years later, the 6-foot-4 senior has been named as one of the 10 finalists for the second annual Lisa Leslie Award, an honor bestowed to the best center in women’s college basketball each season.
It was a humbling experience for Fluker, who walked on this campus her freshman year just looking to continue her basketball career without any plans to be great.
But she has done so much more than that, winning Big West Player of the Year her sophomore and junior years, crossing the 2,000-point threshold on Feb. 16 in a comeback win over Fullerton (becoming the ninth female player in Big West history and the first from CSUN to do so), and winning Big West Player of the Week for a record 14th time on Feb. 18 to go along with the Lisa Leslie Award nomination.
“It’s just a great honor to be even considered for (the Lisa Leslie Award) considering where I started from, you know, not playing until I started high school,” Fluker said. “I think it just shows the level of work that my teammates have helped me put in and my coaches.”
Fluker is always deferring credit to her teammates and coaches, the people that she says have allowed her to sustain the consistent play necessary to earn the honors she has received thus far in her career.
“No, not at all,” Fluker said about envisioning her success. “As soon as I, like, started to see it happening, it was just about keeping going and achieving the highest level that I could.”
Head coach Jason Flowers did see Fluker’s extraordinary talent when he first saw her at CSUN in 2015, though even he did not have an idea that she would accomplish what she has.
“As far as 2,000 points or those kind of stats, I don’t even think in those terms,” Flowers said. “So I can’t sit here and say, ‘I expected her to do this and this.’ You know, we expected her to be pretty darn good. We thought that she had some tools and some gifts that not a lot of people possess. We thought that she could be pretty darn good and to her credit, she’s accepted challenges along the way to keep improving throughout her time.”
And though Flowers does appreciate what Fluker has done to this point, he is more happy to have seen her grow up as a person, with the basketball stuff taking a backseat.
“Obviously, it would be a great honor (to see Fluker win). Obviously, what Lisa Leslie represents to not only the position of center, but just women’s basketball as a whole, is extraordinary,” said Flowers. “I think Channon’s impact here in our program, on this campus, in this community, it’s bigger than any award that can be bestowed upon her. Obviously, it would be big but at the same time, it won’t define what she’s done, how far she’s come, how much she’s grown as a young woman since the time she set foot on campus.”