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Thursday, July 04, 2019 1:00 am

Dizzying journey ends with Pacers

From FBI probe to NBA contract

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – It was barely more than two years ago, June 3, 2017, that Brian Bowen II, one of the most coveted recruits in the entire 2017 class, committed to Louisville.

Since that day, Bowen's basketball career has been in near constant flux; enrolling at Louisville, being suspended from the team, leaving Louisville, enrolling at South Carolina, declaring for the 2018 NBA draft, going undrafted, playing a season in Australia, going un-selected in the 2019 draft and finally, on Monday, signing a two-way contract with the Indiana Pacers.

Now, finally, it seems Bowen, an exceedingly talented 6-foot-7 wing, is ready to get his NBA career off the ground. Despite all that's happened in, he never lost faith that he would end up here.

“Never been a doubt at all (that I'd make the league),” Bowen said. “That's always been a goal of mine, since I was a young kid. And obviously it is still, just to be able to put on an NBA jersey, see that, see my family be able to watch me in the NBA, it's a big thing.”

Bowen, 20, was suspended from the Louisville Cardinals because of an FBI investigation that alleged the family of “Player-10” had received thousands of dollars from an assistant at Louisville. The way the report was written, it became clear the player was Bowen. Louisville head coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich left the school as a result of the incident.

Bowen was absolved of any wrongdoing following an FBI investigation, but the issue derailed his college basketball career. Now, he's making a go of it in the professional ranks. 

The Saginaw, Michigan, native, who played high school basketball at La Lumiere School in LaPorte, has been in Indianapolis this week, practicing with the Pacers' Summer League team as it prepares to travel to Las Vegas for its slate of games.

Indiana's Summer League team is led by Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey, who has been impressed with Bowen's ability and is excited to have him in Fort Wayne this season. Players on two-way contracts, like Bowen, are allowed a maximum of 45 days in the NBA and must spend the rest of the season in the G League, meaning Bowen will likely be a fixture in the Summit City this season.

“He's going to look great in a Mad Ant uniform,” Gansey said. “Even that first day (of practice), right when we played 5-on-5, you could tell he's been playing basketball at a professional level. He's been playing against grown men – I think that says something.”

Bowen played against “grown men” last season when he suited up for the Sydney Kings of the Australian National Basketball League. He averaged 6.5 points and 3 rebounds, while shooting 35.1% from beyond the arc.

The physicality of the league helped prepare him for the rigors of the NBA and the G League. He also learned from teammate Andrew Bogut, the No. 1 pick in the 2005 NBA draft and a member of the Golden State Warriors' 2015 championship team.

“(Playing professionally) helped me to have that tough mentality, without a doubt,” Bowen said. “There's only eight teams over there, so you play each team four times, getting to learn my opponents. 

“Just learning how to be a professional was the biggest thing for me.”

Now he is taking his professionalism – and his basketball abilities – stateside. The last two years have been a whirlwind, but Bowen is just getting started.

Note: Former 76ers guard T.J. McConnell reportedly signed a two-year contract with the Pacers on Wednesday worth $7 million. McConnell, entering his fifth year in the league, averaged 6.4 points, 3.4 assists and 2.3 rebounds in 2018-19 with Philadelphia and shot a career-best 52.5% from the field. The 6-2 point guard, 27, averaged 19.6 minutes for a team that reached the Eastern Conference semifinals.

dsinn@jg.net