Brian Bowen was sandwiched by defenders when he grabbed his 12th and final rebound Friday. He collected a missed free throw and muscled the basketball back through the hoop for his points 12 and 13.
Over 50 seconds remained in an NBA combine scrimmage and Bowen had cemented his improvement from day one.
“I feel like I did a lot better,” said the South Carolina small forward. “I played harder, for sure. I rebounded well. I just got the ball where I could. I didn’t hit some shots, but it’s OK. That happens sometimes.
“But, overall, I played aggressive on defense. I just played hard overall. That’s what I want to show the scouts.”
Bowen had nearly as many turnovers (six) as minutes played Thursday (nine). Less than 24 hours later, he turned in a double-double. Such numbers can be irrelevant in this kind of event, but a stat line of 13 and 12 at least puts something positive on film for a player who’s been mostly invisible to NBA personnel over the last year.
A veteran NBA scout told Yahoo Sports' Pete Thamel on Thursday that Bowen’s in “no man’s land. He may not be good enough to play in the G League right now.”
Seth Davis, television analyst and national college basketball writer for The Athletic, told The State on Thursday that Bowen didn’t look like an NBA player.
All this likely means there’s little chance he’s selected in the two-round NBA draft on June 21. A player drawing that kind of buzz seems prime to return to school. But Bowen, as of now, doesn’t have that option.
As the May 30 deadline waits for early entry college players, the NCAA has yet to rule on his eligibility status. The ex-Louisville Cardinal is still not guaranteed to play for the Gamecocks next season.
Billy Preston, a Kansas freshman caught up in a separate NCAA investigation, signed with a professional team in Bosnia in January. He, like Bowen, was waiting for NCAA clearance.
Bowen, citing a commitment to education and his lifelong dream of participating in the NCAA tournament, went searching for another school when Louisville released him in November. Playing overseas was not on his 18-year-old mind.
“I’ve always grown up, watched March Madness, watched all the college games and stuff,” Bowen said Friday. “I just wanted to be part of that.
“Also, a big thing for me is finishing my academics. Through everything I was going through, I finished with a 3.5 GPA, so that was tremendous for me.”
Bowen on Friday added the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Chicago Bulls and the Washington Wizards to a growing list of organizations to conduct interviews with him.
He said the feedback, as he requested, has been brutally honest.
“They understood that I haven’t played in a whole year,” Bowen said. “So they made it clear to me that they know shots won’t fall sometimes, they know that I haven’t played in a whole year against this competition. They said, ‘It’s OK, just come out and play as hard as you can on both ends of the floor.’
“And that’s what I tried to show today.”
But if it ends up being not enough to convince an NBA signing, would Bowen revisit the overseas option?
“I don’t think I’d look toward that, honestly,” he said. “To me, it’s really just school or the next level, NBA, for me.”