Bowen is heading southwest to Cuthbert next season, where she will be playing basketball for the Andrew College Fighting Lady Tigers.
“It is a great feeling knowing that I will be playing college basketball next season,” said Bowen, only minutes before joining her family, friends and coaches at the official signing ceremony that took place Wednesday morning inside the same high school gym where she spent the past three seasons playing high school basketball.
The move to a city whose population totals 3,873 (2010 U.S. Census) comes five years after picking up a basketball for the very first time when she was an eighth-grader living in San Diego, and three years after continuing her high school basketball career with the Lady Colonels.
Ever since her sophomore year, “Amber has grown tremendously as a person and as an athlete,” said Jamie Horton, Cass’ girls’ basketball coach. “She is great at pressuring the basketball, and has an explosive first step that college coaches like to see in a potential recruit. I would not be surprised to see her play for a Division I or Division II college team two years from now.”
The graduating senior will be one of 15 new faces who will be honing their skills for a junior college basketball program that competes in Region XVII of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) and is undergoing an extreme makeover. Opponents include Georgia Perimeter College, Georgia Highlands College and Chattahoochee Tech.
“I expect Amber to be ferocious on defense and provide our team with leadership that has been sorely missing,” said Samantha Paradise, the Lady Tigers’ second-year head coach who made the three-hour drive north to attend the official signing ceremony.
Paradise was named Andrew College’s new head women’s basketball coach in May 2012 after longtime coach Mike Riffe — who was the catalyst for restarting the women’s basketball program six years ago — was fired as both head coach and athletic director following a 10-20 season, including an 0-18 conference record and a 15-game losing streak to close out the year. Paradise was determined to sign Bowen after watching her play AAU basketball this past summer.
“I do a lot of recruiting in metro Atlanta because of the abundance of talent that is here,” she said. “When I saw Amber play this past summer [for an AAU team in East Cobb], it was like finding a needle in a haystack. She definitely has talent, leadership on the court and the desire to improve her game.”
Having played both point and shooting guard in a ball-controlled offense at Cass, Bowen will be asked to quickly adjust to the Lady Tigers’ up-tempo style of play.
“We played at a faster pace and with a shot clock when I played organized basketball in California,” said Bowen, who was also recruited by Auburn A&M, Oglethorpe University and Berry College. “At Cass, the tempo was quite different from the one that I was used to.”
Along with her having to adjust to a totally different style of basketball, Bowen also had to acquaint herself with a brand new environment and constantly fight to maintain a winning attitude due to the Lady Colonels’ winning just 12 games during her three-year varsity stint.
“You have to stay humble whether you win or lose,” said Bowen, whose future goals include a career in sports management. “You also have maintain a sense of unselfishness on the court. We did not win a lot, but I felt like I learned that basketball is more about wins and losses. It’s about leadership, working together as team, and learning about yourself during long periods of adversity.”
She concluded her high school basketball career averaging 9.7 points, 1.5 steals and two assists per game.