She’s third in the nation in rebounds per game. She’s fifth in double-doubles. She’s taken home the Big West Conference’s player of the week honor five times this season, and counting.
It all puts her in elite company, alongside names like Washington’s Chantel Osahor and Maryland’s Brionna Jones, but chances are you haven’t heard of her. So it goes in the world of mid-majors.
Outside of the Big West, few are talking about the dominant sophomore campaign of Cal State Northridge forward Channon Fluker, and it’s high time to take notice of the 6-foot-4 center.
Fluker first turned heads at Maranatha High School in Pasadena, Calif., where, as a junior, she was named the Player of the Year by the Pasadena Star-News. That year, she averaged 18 points and 19 rebounds per game, and was named her league’s MVP. The following season, she was a first-team all-area selection by the Star News, and repeated as league MVP while padding her numbers to nearly 28 points and 20 rebounds a night.
That success came under the tutelage of her sister, former Tennessee standout and WNBA player Tye’sha Fluker, who served on the Maranatha coaching staff.
“She works hard,” Channon said of her sister, “so I know I have to try and model that the best I can.”
While she had several Division I offers, Fluker chose to stay nearby and attend CSUN. Matadors head coach Jason Flowers said her size and tools, especially her hands, made her a target.
“Her physical, God-given ability was apparent right from the beginning,” he said.
It was also apparent to her opponents.
Named the National Mid-Major Freshman of the Year by CollegeSportsMadness.com, she burst onto the collegiate scene in 2015, shooting nearly 50 percent from the field while averaging 14 points and 10 rebounds a night. Her performance in 28 games — 16 starts — also earned her Big West Freshman of the Year and First Team All-Big West honors. That made her one of the few bright spots on a team that won just seven games.
But what a difference a year makes.
After the program’s one-year hiatus from postseason play — following NCAA Tournament bids in 2014 and 2015 — the Matadors are back in the conversation, and playing some of their best basketball of the year. That’s in no small part due to Fluker’s contributions, especially over the last month.
Now 15-11, and fourth in the Big West after winning seven straight games, it’s been Fluker leading the charge. Since the team’s last loss (Jan. 21), she’s posted six double-doubles, while averaging 22 points and 15 rebounds a game over that stretch.
That effort has not gone unnoticed by the conference, which has awarded her the last three player of the week honors.
She’ll have to do more of the same if CSUN is to make up its two-game deficit with four to play (the final three against the three teams ahead of the Matadors in the conference standings).
As for her future, her coach said her effort will dictate how far she goes.
“It’s going to come down to how hard she wants to work,” Flowers said, “and the effort that she puts in to determine what she becomes at the end of the day.”
That’s something Fluker said she realizes.
“I think I’ve definitely grown a lot,” Fluker said after a game earlier this season, “but I still have some growing to do — as my coach always tells me — and I just have to push through all of the hard times and just keep going, and help my team out because I know they need me.”