Bowen

Brian Bowen 

COLUMBIA — A nearly five-month process ended just like it started.

Brian Bowen is not playing basketball for South Carolina.

The NCAA never made a formal decision regarding Bowen’s eligibility by the 11:59 p.m. deadline Wednesday, but Bowen was informed that he would have to sit out the entire 2018-19 season at minimum if he stayed in school, USC announced. Rather than withdraw from the draft and wait for a ruling that may never come, or a ruling that would cause him to sit out for most of his collegiate eligibility, Bowen will take his chances in professional basketball.

Bowen has little chance of being drafted after he attended the NBA Combine and showed the predictable rust from not playing in a competitive game in nearly a year. He could play in the G League (NBA minor league) or pursue an opportunity overseas.

“I am completely devastated by the NCAA’s ruling,” Bowen said in a 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.”

So ends a saga that began in September, when Bowen was declared ineligible at Louisville. Bowen’s father was alleged to have accepted part of a promised $100,000 to steer his son to Louisville and all parties were swept into the FBI probe that rocked the sport. Louisville athletics director Tom Jurich and Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino lost their jobs due to the scandal.

Bowen was never charged in connection with the investigation but remained ineligible when he transferred to USC in January. Martin said then that the first step toward Bowen playing was restoring his eligibility, and then seeing what punishment, if any, the NCAA would give Bowen.

After being told he was going to sit out the first semester due to the transfer (USC was planning to appeal on the grounds that he’d already sat out a year, but there was no telling how that would go), Bowen was informed this week that at the very least he’d have to sit out the second semester as well. While Martin and Bowen were adamant that Bowen would play at USC if given the chance, the NCAA indicated that he couldn’t reasonably expect to play this year, if at all.

“I enjoyed having Brian as part of our program and he will always be part of our family,” Martin said in a statement. “He is an outstanding person who took his academic studies seriously and wants to earn his college degree. Brian is a proud Gamecock and will be one forever.”

Bowen remains just the fifth McDonald’s All-American to choose USC (P.J. Dozier, his uncle Terry Dozier, the late Rolando Howell and career-leading scorer B.J. McKie) but leaves with nothing but practice minutes for his career. The Gamecocks took a chance on a no-risk, all-reward situation hoping that Bowen, the highest-rated recruit in program history, would one day be cleared to play.

The Gamecocks have three scholarships to give for next season.

Follow David Cloninger on Twitter @DCPandC.