There’s little mystery who the player is that Louisville is holding out of team activities.
It’s almost certainly prized freshman Brian Bowen, the player at the center of the latest scandal to engulf the Cardinals’ embattled basketball program.
In a Wednesday afternoon news conference announcing that basketball coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich had been placed on administrative leave, Louisville interim president Greg Postel also revealed that one unspecified player had been suspended indefinitely. Bowen was spotted on campus by reporters Wednesday morning, but he did not attend an on-campus team meeting later in the day.
The FBI alleged Tuesday that an adidas executive funneled $100,000 to the family of an elite recruit to play at Louisville and represent the shoe-apparel giant after he turns pro. The unnamed prospect then committed to Louisville on June 3, the same date Bowen ended a long, bizarre recruitment with the announcement that he had chosen the Cardinals.
NCAA rules prohibit athletes from accepting cash or gifts not available to all students. If the NCAA corroborates the FBI’s findings, it’s unlikely Bowen would ever be allowed to play for Louisville or any other college given the size of the payout he allegedly received.
Assuming he can’t play in college, Bowen would have to seek another path to the NBA. The 6-foot-7 forward was not considered a clear-cut one-and-done prospect, but his combination of size, skill and outside shooting prowess could earn him the chance to play in the NBA someday.
One option for Bowen could be to play professionally overseas this year like Emmanuel Mudiay, Terrence Ferguson and Brandon Jennings each did after being declared ineligible for college basketball. Bowen could also opt to play one year in the NBA G League or just train by himself in preparation for the draft like fellow McDonald’s All-American Mitchell Robinson is doing.
The depressing truth for Louisville is that it never really needed Bowen. The Cardinals lost Donovan Mitchell to the NBA draft, yet they were still well-stocked on the perimeter next season thanks to the return of incumbent point guard Quentin Snider, standout wing Deng Adel and breakout candidate V.J. King.
Louisville only became a player in Bowen’s recruitment in mid-May of his senior year. At the time, other schools had emerged as the leader to land Bowen only to fall away one by one.
First it was Michigan State until Miles Bridges announced he wasn’t entering the draft this year. Then it was Arizona until starting wings Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins decided to return to school. DePaul emerged as a threat when it hired Bowen’s former high school coach. Creighton also was a popular pick since it had heavily recruited him for months. Oregon and Texas also made late pushes because both could offer talented rosters yet ample playing time.
In the end, Pitino swooped in and landed the last big prize of the 2017 class, a coup he at the time characterized as a lucky break.
Now we know better. The price to land Bowen was apparently a hefty payout, and for Louisville, getting him has turned out to be anything but lucky.