The Journal Gazette
 
 
Tuesday, November 12, 2019 1:00 am

Forced to mature quickly

Shoe scandal sent Ants' Bowen to Australia

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

A foul halts the action at Memorial Coliseum on Saturday night, and Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey starts yelling instructions toward players under the far basket. However, his voice isn't the only one that can be heard. At the top of the key, one of his players, Brian Bowen II, is yelling commands, too.

That's a bit surprising considering Bowen is young – just barely 21 – with a track record of being a bit on the quiet side

“Sometimes I've been a quiet guy, and I want to change that,” Bowen said. “I want to be a lot more vocal and just do whatever I can to help the team win, whether it's scoring or defending or rebounding. I just want to do all the little things that our team is going to need to win.”

Whereas not all players his age have figured out they need to be vocal on the pro court, Bowen isn't the typical 21-year-old. He spent 30 games playing professional basketball overseas before coming to the training camp with the Indiana Pacers and then joining their minor-league team, the Mad Ants. His circuitous story has made him grow up quickly.

“I found out I'm a lot stronger mentally than I thought I was,” Bowen said. “I had to grow up a lot faster than my peers, so I was learning from that and not worrying about the past and taking it day by day. Focusing on the future is really my biggest thing. And building my confidence all the way up.”

Bowen, a native of Saginaw, Michigan, played for the La Lumiere School in La Porte, where he became a McDonald's All-American in 2017 and parlayed that into a scholarship with Louisville. That's where thing went sideways.

The college basketball corruption scandal became big news, resulting in the dismissals of Louisville's coach, Rick Pitino, and athletic director, Tom Jurich, and testimony from Bowen's father that he had agreed to accept $100,000 from a representative of the Adidas shoe company.

Bowen II was suspended and later transferred to South Carolina in January 2018. But when it became clear the NCAA wouldn't allow him to play at least until 2019, he decided to just go pro.

Last season in Australia, he averaged 6.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 15.4 minutes for the Sydney Kings, who had on their roster former NBA No. 1 overall pick Andrew Bogut and Jerome Randle, a two-time scoring champion in the National Basketball League.

“Just learning from those guys and now bringing it over here, it's going to help a lot,” Bowen said.

Bowen returned to the U.S. hoping to be selected in the NBA draft, but that didn't happen and he signed a two-way contract with the Pacers. Mad Ants teammate Naz Mitrou-Long is also on a two-way contract.

Bowen, 6-foot-7, understands his back story is tumultuous, but he feels it will make him a better pro.

“It's definitely been unique. Obviously, it wasn't ideal for me at the time,” he said. “But I dealt with the circumstances I was going through and I feel it worked out for me for the best, honestly. I've matured a lot and I feel a lot better about myself, a lot better about my game. I just wanted to build that confidence back up and I want to show that this season.”

Through two games, the Mad Ants (0-2) have been paced by Stephan Hicks' 19.5 points and 7 rebounds per game, and Mitrou-Long's 19 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds per game.

Bowen has averaged 7 points and 8 rebounds, though he's only shot 5 of 19 from the field and is 0 for 5 from 3-point range.

He admitted, he's still developing parts of his game, like breaking through screens, defending and being vocal for the Mad Ants, who play the Maine Red Claws at 7 p.m. Friday in Portland, Maine.

Above all, he wants to be known as a good teammate who didn't put the previous two years to waste.

“I'm willing to do whatever I can to help the team win and to help the team succeed,” he said. “Whether it's on the defensive end or the offensive end, being a vocal guy. I want to show, especially out here, that I'm a big leader. Being a young guy, I can show my voice. I want to show my all-around game and show that I'm a winner.”

jcohn@jg.net


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