USC Men's Basketball

What's Brian Bowen's NBA draft stock? ESPN analyst weighs in

Brian Bowen
Brian Bowen

Brian Bowen, a sitting South Carolina forward who declared for the NBA draft Wednesday, last played basketball games for La Lumiere High School in Indiana and for the Chicago-based Meanstreets AAU program.

“I think he’s in a challenging position because he hasn’t been scouted by NBA teams,” ESPN draft analyst Jonathan Givony told The State on Wednesday. “They’re not allowed to watch high school games, they’re not allowed to watch AAU games.”

Bowen is a 6-foot-7, 195-pounder who was a five-star recruit and 2017 McDonald’s All-American. His well-documented story from there: Signs at Louisville, leaves Louisville after being a central figure in the FBI’s probe into college basketball, enrolls at South Carolina in January, only practices with the Gamecocks as he waits for the NCAA to rule on his eligibility.

His playing status remains in the air. That’s what coach Frank Martin told The State on Monday at a “Spurs Up” tour stop in Lancaster. That’s what’s Bowen told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman on Wednesday.

He’s not hiring an agent, meaning he can come back to USC if eligibility is restored. The deadline for early entry college players to return to school is May 30.

“This is a mature move from Brian," Jason Setchen, Bowen’s lawyer, told ESPN. "We're hopeful and have faith that the NCAA will make the right decision and allow Brian to play next season for South Carolina, but he'll also have the opportunity to be drafted if that doesn't happen."

But what is Bowen’s draft status?

South Carolina Gamecocks men's basketball coach Frank Martin updates situation with former Louisville transfer Brian Bowen, who was at the center of the FBI's NCAA probe that cost Rick Pitino his job.

As Givony noted, tape is limited. Bowen, on 247Sports, was ranked as the No. 19 player in the ’17 class. The top of that list – No. 1 Marvin Bagley, No. 2 Michael Porter, No. 4 Deandre Ayton, No. 5 Collin Sexton – is lottery-bound.

“It’s going to be hard to draft a guy like that,” Givony said. “It’s not like he was this top 10 recruit, can’t-miss guy coming in. Kind of the position that he was in, the caliber of recruit that he was, I mean those guys, their track record is very hit or miss. Over the years, most of them aren’t one-and-dones. So to see him coming out after one year, I think that’s a tough proposition.”

Bowen scored three points on 1-of-6 shooting in last year’s McDonald’s All-American game. Two weeks later, he was named co-MVP of the Jordan Brand Classic after scoring a game-high 26 points.

USC practices are closed to the media, but Martin and players raved about Bowen’s talent when asked.

“He reminds me of (Washington Wizards forward Kelly Oubre) a little bit,” graduated senior guard Frank Booker said late last month. “He’s just a long, athletic guard who can shoot. He can actually shoot better than Oubre did in college. Long, athletic guard who can actually play defense a little bit and can rebound, also.”

Givony, like most mock drafts, does not have Bowen being selected in June.

“He was a guy that people were going to want to see in college and just kind of see how he develops, see how his body evolved, see how he improves his skill set,” Givony said. “He was a shooter in high school who was a little bit streaky as a shooter. … He was a guy people would have watched, but I don’t know if anybody was dying to draft him a year ago.”

Invites for the NBA combine go out April 27. A total of 67 players were invited to last year’s event. Counting underclassmen alone, some 130 players have declared for the ’18 draft, including USC’s Chris Silva, who hasn’t hired an agent.

“It depends on what he’s looking for,” Givony said of Bowen. “It depends on what his likelihood of getting eligible is. I don’t know, maybe it’s a lost cause, maybe he just feels like he just needs to go play in the G League or whatever, maybe he can get a two-way contract. Maybe he can get a combine invite. Maybe he can get some workouts.

“NBA teams, they’re going to work out much worse players than him and people are just going to want to kick the tires on him a little bit and see, ‘What does he have here? What does he look like after not having played really any basketball for a full year?’”

Former Gamecock P.J. Dozier left USC after his sophomore season last spring. He went undrafted and spent most of this past season playing for the G League’s Oklahoma City Thunder affiliate.