Aaron Bowen arrived to the Hilltop five years ago as a bit of an unknown in a class that featured two top-5o recruits - Nate Lubick and Markel Starks - local big man Moses Ayegba, and an aspiring burnout writer (yours truly). His freshman year did little to answer any questions about him, as the Quality Education Academy graduate and Jacksonville, Florida native was sidelined with injuries right out of the gate. But in spite of the considerable ups and downs he endured throughout his time at Georgetown, Bowen left us with undoubtedly some of the most memorable plays of the past few years.
Opportunity came slowly Bowen, as he logged only 53 total minutes of action in his sophomore year, most of which came in garbage time. I, like many other Hoya fans, assumed that his potential would never be fulfilled due to inconsistencies and a seemingly bad fit in Georgetown's offense. Perhaps his minutes would increase, but it seemed that his impact on the program would not.
Junior year started much the same way - a few sparing minutes thrown in garbage time, a highlight dunk to cap off a cupcake win - and only cemented my low expectations of him. But as the season progressed, AB logged some meaningful minutes in big-time Big East games. Georgetown is not a place that glorifies the individual, but rather praises the unnoticed and selfless plays; as Bowen began to understand that, he began to carve out a niche for himself. He started to gain confidence.
And then approximately halfway through the year, AB pulled off one of the most athletic and quintessentially Bowen plays - a remarkable reverse tip-in off of a missed layup from DSR with 3 minutes to play against No. 5 Louisville. The bucket put the Hoyas ahead for good, and they clung on to a 53-51 victory at Verizon Center.
At the time, Georgetown was just two games removed from an embarrassing loss to USF and desperately needed a marquee win to turn around the season. With the game very much in limbo, Bowen told Coach Thompson - "I'ma get one, coach, I'ma get one" - referring to a much needed rebound. That he went out and succeeded is praiseworthy itself, but more noteworthy is that AB began to understand how important the little plays are in winning games - and how he could use his superb athleticism and tenacity to do just that.
Hoya fans will remember this play for becoming a fixture on Sportscenter for the remainder of the week, but it also marked an important transformation for Bowen, who logged double-digit minutes in four of his next five games - matching his career total previous to the Louisville game. And when Thompson was in desperation mode against FGCU, he turned to AB to make plays. Bowen responded with 8 points and 5 rebounds on only three shots in just 12 minutes of play. It wasn't enough to complete a comeback, but it was enough to prove to Thompson - and to Hoya fans - that AB was ready to play.
And so, ready or not, AB was forced to play big minutes senior year due to injuries, suspensions, and a general lack of depth. In 20 minutes per game, AB averaged 6 points, 2 rebounds, an assist and a steal per game. He also increased his efficiency, shooting 50% from the floor - a career high at the time. Still, Bowen never had the capability of taking over games or leading the Hoyas to victory. He was a role player at heart, an athletic wing who could finish above the rim and play good defense. But Georgetown only went as far as Starks or DSR took them that year.
By the time his final year rolled around, Bowen - a fifth year senior and graduate of Georgetown - settled in to a role he was more comfortable handling. It was clear that his shooting inconsistencies and his sometimes out-of-control style would limit him offensively, as it had his previous three years. But a talented freshman class took the scoring pressure away from Bowen and allowed him to be a scrappy defender and a spark coming off of the bench. Bowen shined at times this year - particularly in an overtime win against Indiana, where he notched 22 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. The win at Madison Square Garden completed a three-game stretch during which Bowen scored 49 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in three victories.
So perhaps it's unfair that AB clocked only 6 minutes and missed the only shot he took in his final game as a Hoya. Bowen has always been a fan favorite, and nobody has ever asked to see less of him on the court. But not every player ends his career in a fitting and final way, and as for AB - well, we were left wanting more. Not because he didn't produce or couldn't play well - no, AB left his mark on Georgetown and his teams - but because no amount of Aaron Bowen, the walking highlight reel, was ever enough.
Aaron made the game exciting for us. And that alone is worth something.