Will the athletic wing finally get some run in his third season?
Our award-winning Player Profiles series takes you into the weekend with a look back and forward for redshirt sophomore wing Aaron Bowen. While seemingly a good kid that enjoys being a teammate, Bowen hasn't been able to crack the rotation in his first two seasons. Will Bowen finally get some real run in his third season, or will depth on the wing and a sharp-shooting freshman continue a minutes crunch that relegated him to the bench thus far?
At this point we all know that Georgetown’s last crop of freshmen had the biggest on-court impact since JTIII’s first group of newbies, which included the near-sainted triumvirate of Jeff Green, Roy Hibbert, and Jonathan Wallace. Last year gave us the marvelous Otto Porter, who became an immediate contributor and an eventual starter, and now looks primed to be the team leader as a sophomore. But the class wasn't a one-man show: Greg Whittington, Jabril Trawick, and Mikael Hopkins all played roles as well, and each figures to start or contribute major minutes this year.
That youth movement paid dividends on the court and has us optimistic about the team’s future. But it was not without its casualties, none moreso than Aaron Bowen. The Floridian wing didn’t see much action in his freshman season, beginning the season on the pine before shifting to the shelf, where a shoulder injury landed him for the rest of the season. After the season, five departures, including three in the back-court, figured to open up more minutes for Bowen.
But his most publicized moment probably came the summer beforehand, when he and Whittington got in an on-court scrap during Kenner League. Perhaps that scuffle was foreshadowing: once the season started, Bowen’s sparring partner and Porter gobbled up the wing minutes while Trawick assumed back-up guard duties. As a result, despite apparently good health, Bowen’s minutes barely increased in quantity or quality from the season below. In games decided by fewer than 40 points, Bowen totaled 26 minutes for the season, all in garbage time. One global phenomenon’s most cynical preseason projection for Bowen was prescient:
Bowen gets lost in the playing time crunch. Between Jason Clark, Jabril Trawick, Greg Whittington, Otto Porter, and Hollis Thompson, Bowen just cannot crack the rotation at the 2 or the 3.
Outlook for This Season
Given the lack of meaningful minutes, it’s pretty hard to project Bowen’s output going forward. For example, Bowen had an 88.5 defensive rating last year, an awesome number that becomes meaningless when you consider that he was defending other 12th men. (To further illustrate the point, John Caprio actually led the team with an 88.1 rating.) In his brief game action, we saw Bowen's impressive athleticism and serviceable jump shot, but gained little idea of how those skills might translate against first-string competition, or how they might gel with those of his teammates.
In the more extended run and faster play afforded by Kenner League, Bowen has used his athleticism on the break, where he can finish effectively. (As seen above, Bowen put that athleticism to good use in a dunk contest at Midnight Madness.) In the half-court, he’s not much of a threat off the dribble, and only occasionally so from long range, where flashes of shooting touch are bracketed by long cold stretches.
JTIII, looking to use his team’s impressive length, ratchets up pressure defenses used only rarely in seasons gone by. The departures of Clark and Thompson open up minutes, as does a longer rotation and more emphasis on transition. Bowen, in turn, carves out a role as an energetic defender and athletic finisher on the break. Faster pace plays to his strengths, and he gains confidence with minutes. He also maintains passable shooting touch in the half-court, thereby stealing some minutes from the not-yet-ready Stephen Domingo.
Bowen can’t catch a break. JTIII changes little tactically, Whittington and Trawick both make sophomore leaps, and Bowen gets passed by yet another freshman wing, as Domingo provides much of Bowen’s athleticism while also sniping from downtown. The victim of another minutes crunch, Bowen remains part of the victory cigar trio, taking off his warm-ups only with the walk-ons in the final minutes of blowouts.
It’s hard not to feel bad for Bowen. Last season, scarce minutes and questionable fit conspired to keep him on the bench. Neither of those factors seems to have changed this year. While the departures of Clark and Thompson free up some minutes, the sophomores also figure to play a lot more, and freshmen D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera seems poised to play 15 minutes per night. The near-annual possibility of a ten-man rotation might give Bowen an opportunity, but that raises the questions of whose minutes he’d take, and why. The most likely answers are Domingo and because he’s not ready, but the early reviews of the freshman from California call those into doubt. Also, while Kenner League, to put it mildly, doesn’t simulate in-season play, there’s little indication that Bowen has developed much beyond last season.
Even with these outstanding questions, it’s reasonable to assume that Bowen will get a very mild uptick in minutes, perhaps even including some spot mid-game duty, especially the staff envisions him fulfilling sticking around for his remaining two years after this one. Regardless, he seems likely to remain a happy camper and good teammate.