For the record, throughout a somewhat vagabond collegiate basketball career, Brooke Bowen has always been 5-foot-9.
Before the start of her senior season for the Chico State University women’s basketball team, the Skyview High School graduate posted on social media an array of her roster photos from her four seasons.
Seattle Pacific University listed the freshman guard at 5-10. At Clark College, coach Al Aldridge moved the sophomore to the post and she grew to 6-foot. Chico State has been more truthful since Bowen arrived there last season as a guard/forward — in reality a forward last year but now back to a wing for her final season.
“Now that I don’t play a post anymore, I’ve shrunk,” Bowen said with a laugh. “I think Al at Clark just gave me a couple of inches because I played a post. I feel like he made me a little bit taller than I really am, but I’ve always been 5-9.”
While this is the only time in her collegiate career that she is in a program for the second year, it has come with changes in the form of the position switch. She is a classic “tweener” as a 5-9 college player, smaller than most posts but taller than most guards.
For her final season, coach Brian Fogel has her primarily on the perimeter.
Adapting to change
Moving to guard came with another adjustment. After starting all 26 games for the Wildcats last year, Bowen started the season opener, then was a reserve for the next eight games.
It was a jolt for Bowen to be told that it was best for the team that she not start, she said, but she made the best of that new role.
“It was really hard for me,” she said. “I didn’t exactly understand. It was hard to go from starting all last season to not starting this season and it’s my senior year. At first, I didn’t really understand his reasoning. It was hard for me to grasp and wrap my mind around that, but I was like, ‘OK, if this is what coach wants, this is what’s going to be and I’ve got to come off the bench and play the best I can.’ I did my best at doing that.”
Eventually, she won back a starting position and had 13 points, five assists and four rebounds in a New Year’s Eve victory over Cal State Los Angeles.
She has been on the floor for the opening tipoff ever since.
“I kind of started out this season a little bit on a rollercoaster, taking all these different turns that I had to adjust to,” Bowen said. “That was tough, but I feel like now I’ve finally adjusted. I think we kind of finally found the right how it should be. All the girls on the team have adjusted to our positions. It was a little bit of a tough transition throughout the beginning of the season.”
Chico State’s season itself has been a bit of a rollercoaster.
After a 4-0 non-conference start, the Wildcats began 1-8 in the NCAA Division II California College Athletic Association, then won four of five games going into this weekend, including the last three, rising to 9-9, 4-8 CCAA.
The only senior on Chico State’s roster, Bowen said she has become more vocal in her second season as a Wildcat but leads more by example.
One big example of that was embracing the move to guard, which Fogel told Bowen would be the best way for her to help the team as a senior.
“I wasn’t the biggest post or the strongest post out there when I played. I was a shorter post, so he felt that moving me to a guard would be better.”
Bowen agreed, and the position switch bears out in her statistics.
Going into the weekend’s games, Bowen’s playing time and scoring average were virtually identical (9.3 points in 24.2 minutes a game as a junior; 9.7 and 24.8 this season). Her rebounding average dropped from a team-leading 5.5 last year to 3.4, and she had four blocks after 17 as a junior. Meanwhile, with eight games still remaining in the 2015-16 regular season, she already had more assists and steals with 40 and 26, respectively, after 32 and 24 all last season and second on the team in both categories.
Bowen has been the team’s leading scorer four times, as many as all last season, but has not been the leading rebounder as a senior after achieving that seven times as a junior.
Her 3-point shooting average is up 60 points from last season to .282 on nearly twice as many attempts already as she had all last season, but she wants that to improve more.
Bowen does have enough lingering post mentality to not be happy about her rebounding numbers.
“I can rebound just as much being a guard,” she said. “It’s harder for me to get more rebounds just because I’m not under the basket all the time like I was last year when I was always under the basket on defense guarding a post. It was basically turn around and grab a rebound since you’re already under there, whereas now a lot of the time I’m guarding someone who’s playing on the perimeter, so I have to box out and then run in to get the rebound. A lot of the guards just stay on the perimeter and don’t always crash the boards.”
While the team’s 1-8 stretch was disheartening, only one of the losses — two months ago at Cal State East Bay — was a blowout. That was the day after the Wildcats lost a late lead in a tough 49-47 loss at San Francisco State. That 1-2 punch had Chico State reeling for a while, Bowen said, but they seem to have recovered for the second round of conference games.
Chico State is currently eighth in the 13-team CCAA. The top eight teams qualify for the conference tournament, and the Wildcats play five of their last eight regular season games — including five of their next seven — at home.
“Obviously, we want to move up more, but we need to be in that top eight to make the tournament, so that’s our goal for the near future,” Bowen said. “After that, we’ll set our next goal to keep going and make it on to the regional tournament.”