Josh Kendall

Ray Tanner responds to criticism of USC in Brian Bowen situation

Brian Bowen: ‘They took the game away from me.’

Brian Bowen, speaking at the NBA combine, talks about the allegations at Louisville and what this past year has been like.
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Brian Bowen, speaking at the NBA combine, talks about the allegations at Louisville and what this past year has been like.

There are people who don’t think Ray Tanner did enough to try to get Brian Bowen eligible to play college basketball. South Carolina’s athletics director knows because he heard from them.

“I received some criticism, our president received some criticism, social media mainly, from people who don’t know all the facts,” Tanner told The State on Friday after the SEC’s annual spring meetings ended. “I think there was a sentiment that we didn’t do enough, and I’ll assure you we did all we could.”

USC announced Wednesday that Bowen, a 6-foot-7 former McDonald’s All-American, was informed by the NCAA that he would be suspended for at least the 2018-2019 season, prompting Bowen to leave the school and enter the NBA Draft without ever playing a game for the Gamecocks.

Bowen originally signed with Louisville but left the Cardinals after a wide-ranging FBI investigation into college basketball. Bowen’s father allegedly received $19,500 from Adidas to help steer his son toward Louisville, an Adidas-sponsored program.

When Bowen announced he was enrolling at South Carolina in January, he became the highest-rated basketball recruit in school history but had to sit out the the 2017-2018 season. South Carolina officials had hoped he would be ruled eligible for the upcoming season, but the NCAA dashed those hopes Wednesday, just hours before the deadline for Bowen to withdraw his name from the NBA Draft or move forward with his professional career.

“We took the young man, so it doesn’t make sense that we wouldn’t do all we can to put him on the court,” Tanner told The State on Friday.

Tanner, who declined to discuss specifics of South Carolina’s communications with the NCAA during the process, said he was uncertain why the decision took so long to come down.

“We were trying to get a point that it was final and resolved, and we never got there,” Tanner said. “Many things are out of your control.”

Like head basketball coach Frank Martin, Tanner praised Bowen’s behavior during his time at South Carolina.

“Academically, he excelled, just a great young man that desired to be a part of the program, and it didn’t work out,” Tanner said. “We welcomed him to our program based on what he’d been through. I’m proud to be associated with that young man and how he represented himself and what he did in our program. I am disappointed as he is that he’s not going to be able to play but in no way am I being critical of how it was handed down. It’s not in our hands to handle that decision.”

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