Brian Bowen: ‘They took the game away from me.’
After being told he wouldn't be allowed to play next season, Brian Bowen has opted to end his South Carolina career.
The freshman wing will enter the NBA draft and not return to the Gamecocks. South Carolina announced Bowen's decision roughly seven hours before the draft's deadline for early entry college players.
"The NCAA has informed the University of South Carolina that, at a minimum, Brian Bowen will be ineligible for the 2018-19 basketball season based on alleged benefits received by the Bowen family at his former institution and his requirement to serve a transfer year in residence at South Carolina," USC said in a statement.
The news ends an eight-month saga that started in late September when the FBI released findings of its investigation into bribery and corruption in college hoops. Bowen’s father allegedly received $19,500 from Adidas to help steer his son toward Louisville, an Adidas-sponsored program.
Bowen has denied knowledge of the transaction and was cleared by the FBI. The allegation, however, was enough to trigger the firing of longtime Louisville coach Rick Pitino. Bowen was suspended and then transferred from Louisville as the Cardinals didn’t file for his NCAA reinstatement.
"I am completely devastated by the NCAA’s ruling,” Bowen said Wednesday in the statement. “All I ever wanted to do was continue my education and play college basketball. However, after learning of the ruling, and discussing it with my family and attorney, I’ve decided to pursue my professional career. I’m grateful to the University of South Carolina and Frank Martin for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to be a Gamecock.”
The NCAA releasing information on Bowen’s status comes long after other players linked to the FBI investigation were given some sort of resolution. Auburn’s Danjel Purifoy, for example, was ineligible all of last season after his mother allegedly received $11,000 from former Tigers assistant coach Chuck Person. The NCAA ruled in March that Purifoy must also sit the first 30 percent of the 2018-19 season.
USC said it received information from the NCAA and worked with Bowen and his attorney, Jason Setchen, over the past few days before the 6-foot-7 former McDonald's All-American made his final decision.
"What has happened in Brian Bowen’s case is a tragedy of epic proportions. I cannot express the magnitude of my dismay in the NCAA’s 'ruling' in this matter," Setchen tweeted. "Unlike in the biblical tale of David and Goliath, in this case (at least for now) Goliath has prevailed."
“I appreciate the hard work of our staff who worked on behalf of Brian on his eligibility status,” South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner said. “Brian is a hard-working, bright and determined young man who saw himself as a teammate, even though he couldn’t play on game day. We look forward to supporting him in the next steps of his career.”
Bowen is not projected to be taken in the two-round draft on June 21, but could sign in the G League, the NBA’s minor league affiliation. (Bowen said during the NBA combine that playing in an international professional league was not a preferred option.)
“I enjoyed having Brian as part of our program, and he will always be part of our family,” USC coach Frank Martin said in the statement. “He is an outstanding person who took his academic studies seriously and wants to earn his college degree. Brian dreamt of playing college basketball and selflessly contributed to helping his team get better each day while he was here. Participating in college basketball gives young people a tremendous opportunity to learn and grow while enjoying the surroundings being part of a University. I wish Brian had this opportunity. We will continue to support Brian and do everything we can to help him reach his goals. Brian is a proud Gamecock and will be one forever. I hope nothing but the best for him in the future.”
Bowen’s departure means USC won’t have the services of its highest-rated recruit in program history. The Gamecocks have three open scholarships.