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Hightower's hard work pays off

Mohegan - Sylvia Fowles smiled as she described the work ethic of Connecticut Sun guard Allison Hightower, her former LSU teammate.

"She's unbelievable," the Chicago Sky center said. "She's like a horse; just a straight thoroughbred. She goes out there and works 110 percent all of the time.

"Even in walkthroughs on game days (at LSU), (then coach) Pokey (Chatman) used to have to say 'walk,' because she does everything at a fast pace."

Hightower has stayed on the attack during her young professional career with the Sun. The 2010 second-round pick gets her chance to shine today before a nationally-televised audience at the WNBA All-Star Game at Mohegan Sun Arena (3:30 p.m., Chs. 6, 8).

"When I first came into the league, I had a lot of struggles," Hightower said. "Being sick all of the time, just not being able to play as much; just trying to make the team. For me to come from that to right now, standing on this court at an All-Star game, being one of the reserves, it's amazing.

"It just shows you that a lot of hard work will pay off."

Hightower was one of six reserves chosen by the league's coaches to be on the East team.

Former Sun coach Mike Thibault said last year that Hightower would become one of the league's top 25 players.

He nailed it.

"She's very confident now," Fowles said. "She's always been the Energizer Bunny, that person who's going to outwork you and not get outworked. That just shows today in the WNBA. That's pretty impressive to watch."

Hard work was Hightower's calling card at LSU, so much so that the coaches created an award in her honor - the "Allison Hightower Outstanding Practice Player." She was projected as a first-round pick in the 2010 draft, but fell to the second round and was taken 15th overall by Connecticut.

"I always dreamed of being in this league since I was 10, 11 years old watching the Houston Comets every summer," Hightower said. "For me to be able to be drafted 15, it didn't matter what the number was that I went. I was drafted. I was thankful for that and blessed."

Hightower played in 20 of 34 games her rookie season as various illnesses sapped her energy. She had her tonsils removed that offseason at the urging of doctors, and her health has been good ever since.

The next obstacle for Hightower was learning to play the point. She never played that position and had always been an off-guard. Over time, she has become one of the Sun's top ballhandlers.

"This past year, the whole year, I played point guard overseas," Hightower said. "I wasn't really comfortable in the beginning, but the more I played, the more people pressured me and double teamed me, I just got more comfortable."

Hightower has been forced to take on a bigger role this season as starting point Kara Lawson and reserve Renee Montgomery have missed multiple games with injuries. She is shooting 41 percent this season and averaging 13 points. She's also made 39 percent of her 3-pointers, a skill that wasn't a strength in college.

"Last year, she upped her game, especially on the defensive end, and became one of the premiere perimeter defenders in the league," ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo said. "This year, under very difficult circumstances in terms of injuries to the rest of the team, she's turned herself into an all-star, and it's come from really hard work.

"In college, she had that great floater, but she wasn't making many threes. Now she's become a consistent weapon out there. I'm really pleased for her because she's obviously put the hard work in, and to put it in first on the defensive side says a lot about her willingness to improve and work hard."

• Atlanta center Erika de Souza has replaced Chicago's Elena Delle Donne (concussion) on the East roster. Sun center Tina Charles, the reigning WNBA MVP, will start in Delle Donne's place. Seattle's Tina Thompson will replace injured Phoenix center Brittney Griner (knee) and Minnesota forward Rebekkah Brunson will start in Griner's place.


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