Bucs glad Bowen chose basketball

Charleston Southern senior Cedrick Bowen is averaging 8.4 points per game for the Bucs going into Saturday's game against Presbyterian. (CSU Photo)

As a rising freshman at Woodstock High School in Georgia, Cedrick Bowen was a 6-2 wide receiver who many felt was destined for greatness on the football field.

Bowen imagined himself as the next Calvin Johnson, star receiver for the Detroit Lions. Bowen was a big, strong receiver with speed and great hands. His love for football was unmatched.

During spring practice of that freshman year, Bowen suffered a serious knee injury. That day would be Bowen’s last on a football field.

After surgery and six months of rehabilitation, Bowen returned to athletics and turned his focus to basketball.

Today, the 6-5, 230-pound Bowen is a senior on the Charleston Southern basketball team. Though his mind still wanders back to what might have been in football, he has no regrets that he decided to pursue basketball.

“I tell the guys around here all the time, I could be playing in one of these big bowl games and Mel Kiper would be talking about me as a draft pick,” joked Bowen, who suffered a broken kneecap and has a very large scar to prove it. “Football was my first love. I had good size and I could run. Had I not been injured that day, I might have stayed with football. My mom always told me I was better off in basketball, but I think she just wanted to make sure I didn’t get hurt again.

“It all worked out great though. I’ve had a great time in basketball and coming to Charleston Southern really helped me grow as a person. Things happen for a reason and I think God’s plan was for me to play basketball here.”

Bowen is a post player on a team that centers its offense around the guards. CSU is one of the nation’s top three-point shooting programs, and senior guards Saah Nimley and Arlon Harper form the best backcourt in school history. The Bucs (9-7 overall, 3-2 in the Big South) play at Presbyterian (6-12, 2-3) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Bowen is averaging 8.4 points per game this season while shooting 61 percent from the floor, but scoring isn’t his priority.

“People don’t realize what Cedrick means to our team,” CSU coach Barclay Radebaugh said. “He and (senior forward) Paul Gombwer have been the foundation for all that we have done. Cedrick is a very sound, solid basketball player and he’s willing to do all the dirty stuff. He plays defense, he rebounds and he runs the floor.

“He’s such a great athlete. His speed and athleticism make it hard for opposing big guys to keep up. He has great hands, which I imagine comes from football. I could see where he would have been an outstanding football player, but we’re glad he chose basketball.”

In the Bucs’ season opener against Ole Miss, it was Bowen who slammed down a dunk on a rebound just before the final buzzer that gave CSU the upset win. The dunk was featured on ESPN as the No. 1 play that night.

Two weeks ago, with CSU trailing Campbell 71-70, Bowen dunked on a breakaway with a second remaining to give CSU another win.

“The dunk at Ole Miss is easily the highlight of my career, but for me winning the game was most important,” said Bowen. “I’m all about winning. I don’t care if I ever score a point as long as we win.

“I am going to leave here with at least one championship (the Big South regular-season title in 2012-13), hopefully two, but that championship can never be taken away. It’s something I am really proud to be a part of.”

Radebaugh said it’s that attitude that makes Bowen a pleasure to coach.

“He is one of the most unselfish people I have ever been around. He is a good player but he is an incredible person,” Radebaugh said. “He has a heart as big as Charleston. He has grown up and matured into an outstanding young man and we are really proud of him.

“Those two dunks will be remembered for a long time. But for me, I’ll always remember Ced for the man he has become and the type of person he is on a daily basis.”