While reporters sat outside the South Carolina basketball offices Thursday afternoon and waited for Frank Martin to emerge, a number of Gamecocks players were seen walking from the building to their cars.
None had flashy golden hair.
Brian Bowen, USC’s stylish – and controversial – new member of the program, has to sit for two semesters before he’s eligible to play for Martin’s team. Those are the NCAA rules for a transfer. But Bowen, who is at Carolina after a hectic semester at Louisville, isn’t your typical transfer. He’s linked to the FBI probe that took down Cardinals coach Rick Pitino. Bowen still must be reinstated by the NCAA.
Martin on Thursday addressed plenty of questions, among them Bowen’s upcoming timeline.
“Transfer status isn’t the first thing on the agenda,” Martin said. “It’s reinstatement. So we got to figure out that part. Compliance is on it. They got to figure that part out and then once that part’s figured out, I’m sure they’ll try to figure out the transfer part of it.”
Martin, at this stage in the process, said he’s not clear on if Bowen, a five-star recruit and former McDonald’s All-American, could be eligible before the end of the fall 2018 semester.
He is clear, however, on a more than a few other issues related to his high-profile addition.
Bowen is enrolled at USC and is expected to begin practicing with the Gamecocks on Friday. He can be on the bench for Carolina home games this season.
Bowen, a consensus top 20 recruit in the 2017 class, is eligible for June’s NBA Draft. Martin said he wouldn’t stop the versatile 6-foot-7 small forward from entering, but “I can tell you, from my conversations with him, he plans to be here next year. They’re a loyal family. He’s a loyal kid.”
But Bowen’s an 18-year-old associated with the biggest college basketball scandal of record.
A Louisville signee, Bowen spent the fall semester at the school, but didn’t play. Though not mentioned directly, Bowen was later identified as the “unnamed player” that Adidas funneled $100,000 to at the request of a Cardinals coach. The FBI alleges that Brian Bowen Sr., Brian Bowen’s father, accepted the money.
“I’ve read that whole case,” Martin said, “every page, every paragraph, every sentence, so I know what the case says.
“But I’m not very good with English … basically the way it’s been expressed to me is that the young man has been cleared by the FBI. I don’t know if that’s the right English or not, but I trust in the people I just mentioned.”
That being South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner, president Harris Pastides and compliance director Chance Miller.
“If we thought in any way that that young man was still being investigated by the FBI,” Martin said, “we probably don’t do this.”
Bowen, per Martin’s policy with freshman players in their first semester, won’t be made available to the media for a while. Martin described the Michigan native as “an unbelievable kid.”
“We all got a chapter in our life we’re not comfortable with,” Martin said. “And the best part about life is when you can go on to the next chapter and start enjoying life again.
“All he wants to do is be a college kid. He wants to be a college kid. He wants to enjoy, he wants to be a teammate. It’s all he’s ever done. I’m excited for him.
“When we had the conversation that we had admitted him and our leadership was going to stand up and fight for reinstatement, that kid almost started crying. It’s a wonderful family. The young man in just incredible. I’m happy for him.
“When you see joy in an 18-year-old face, as a person that cares about people, it makes you feel good.”
USC fans just want to feel good about seeing Bowen on the floor. Martin is convinced that will happen.
“We wouldn’t have signed up for it if we didn’t think he was eventually gonna go back on the court,” Martin said.