Chico State coach Brian Fogel and the Wildcats had seen Bowen before. Early in her freshman season at SPU, Bowen did not score but dished out five assists in the Falcons’ 89-77 loss to the Wildcats in the CCAA-GNAC Challenge played at Chico. The night before, Bowen scored 16 points in SPU’s 78-57 rout of Sonoma State.
After a difficult freshman year cut short at Seattle Pacific University, Brooke Bowen was questioning her love for basketball.
After returning home and convincing herself not to give up the game, a stellar 2013-14 season at Clark College helped her to get it back.
As a junior at Chico State University in California, she finds herself having the college experience she expected to have following a state championship season at Skyview High School.
“After my first year, I kind of went through personal stuff and found myself losing the love for basketball,” Bowen said. “I went through times when I was like, ‘Ugh, I don’t even want to play anymore. I don’t think this is what I want to do anymore.’ But I knew that if I gave up basketball, I would probably regret it.”
Chico State coach Brian Fogel and the Wildcats had seen Bowen before. Early in her freshman season at SPU, Bowen did not score but dished out five assists in the Falcons' 89-77 loss to the Wildcats in the CCAA-GNAC Challenge played at Chico. The night before, Bowen scored 16 points in SPU's 78-57 rout of Sonoma State.
Bowen was getting playing time as an SPU freshman, scoring in double figures in a couple of games, but she began to realize that she was not in the right place for her. She was happy to stay in the Northwest, but found she did not being in a city school environment.
“I just think at the time, I wasn’t ready to be away from home,” she said, and with support from her parents, the decision was made to return to Vancouver. Describing the thought process, Bowen said: “It was like, ‘What’s the point of being here if I’m not getting the right things out of it and I’m not happy?’ “
Bowen’s last game with the Falcons was on Jan. 26, 2013, the 17th game of a 28-game season, as she scored four points in a 66-56 road loss to Montana State-Billings. She averaged 5.7 points and 3.5 rebounds a game, both top marks among the program’s four freshmen — a fact touted three days later in the school’s weekly women’s basketball release.
While she left Seattle, Bowen said she harbors no ill will toward SPU coach Julie Heisey or her staff, the Falcons or the university.
“It’s still a great school and for a lot of people I know, it was a perfect fit for them,” Bowen said. “I have nothing against the school or against the team. Julie’s a great coach and the assistant coaches were great as well, and I really liked my teammates there, as well, but it was just something I had to do for myself. SPU is still a great school and the basketball program is a great program, but for me, it just wasn’t right.”
Back in the game
She eventually contacted Clark College coach Al Aldridge about playing as a sophomore. She was one of three Penguins teammates last season who had been part of NCAA programs the year before.
The team won its West Region of what was then known as the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges, finishing 26-4 and placing fifth at the NWAACC tournament after falling in the quarterfinals.
Bowen got back on track in her life and school as well as in basketball. She was named NWAACC West Region MVP after averaging 16.9 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists a game.
“It helped me get my love for basketball back, so that was something that was big for me,” she said. “I started to love basketball again after not liking it for a little while. It was fun last year, and it helped me, obviously, get looked at by other schools.”
Bowen reached out to some schools, concentrating on NCAA Division II programs in the West, and was contacted by others in a second college recruiting process she said was helped by a website where she could post game film for coaches to view.
She ultimately took two official visits. The first was to a school in North Dakota, where she quickly realized that the upper Great Plains are not a good match for someone who loves the features of the Pacific Northwest.
Chico and Northern California was a much better fit.
Bowen was sold on that visit, and ended up a Wildcat.
Thriving in Chico
Part of the fit for Bowen with the Wildcats is Chico State’s fast-paced style under coach Brian Fogel.
The Wildcats run the court and rarely use much of the shot clock.
Bowen’s role on the court has evolved from playing guard at SPU to a guard/forward at Chico State with the emphasis on forward.
A classic “tweener” at 5-foot-9, she typically is taller than opposing guards but shorter than post players — but that also means she can find success posting up on guards or drawing post players out to the perimeter to defend her.
“I’ve been playing a little bit of both, but mostly I fit into the post position,” Bowen said. “I kind of move around the high post a lot, because that’s where my favorite shot is. That’s my best shot. My range is in the high post area, so I try to get there as much as I can. …
“This is the first time I’ve really been a post, but I still get my perimeter shots, too. I still make some threes every once in a while, which is fun, but mostly I play inside. Sometimes I’ll get a mismatch inside and have an advantage because I’m taller.”
Bowen is averaging 9.4 points and 6.2 rebounds a game. The Wildcats are 7-9, 4-8 in the California Collegiate Athletic Association, having won three of their last four games since a five-game skid. Bowen had double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds in a home overtime win over Sonoma State and scored a collegiate career-high 19 points in a road win Saturday at Cal State Monterey Bay.
As the second round of the CCAA schedule begins this week, the Wildcats have their next four games at home against teams that beat them in earlier road games. Bowen said the Wildcats are capable of a strong finish to the season now that they know what to expect from their conference foes.
“We know that we can match up with those teams, and we’re going to work hard for it,” she said.
Whatever happens, though, Bowen is happy to have found a true home away from home.
“I really like it here,” Bowen said. “It feels right to be here. It’s just the right fit for me. Of course I miss the Northwest, but it’s two short years of my life. I wanted to get out and enjoy a different place while I can. I ended up loving it down here.”
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