Auburn's beefy Bowers brings muscle, attitude to frontcourt
The Tigers' 6-foot-7, 278-pound junior college transfer has also given Auburn something that has been in short supply in recent seasons: Rebounds galore. Bowers is leading the Southeastern Conference and ranks sixth nationally with 11.3 rebounds a game while often posting up against taller players.
''I really don't care who they are or how big they are,'' Bowers said. ''Getting the basketball, that's what I do.''
He did it to the tune of 20 points and 14 rebounds last Saturday against Missouri, whose big men include 6-11 Keanau Post. On one second-half possession, he snared the ball after his own errant shots three times before also missing his fourth try.
The performance came with another rebound-hogging, undersized big man Charles Barkley watching. Bowers has reached double digits in both points and rebounds a league-high nine times in 15 games going into Thursday night's trip to Florida. He's one of only five major conference players averaging a double-double.
Even with scorer Antoine Mason and point guard K.C. Ross-Miller, Bowers has been coach Bruce Pearl's most important addition to the team.
No Auburn player has averaged double figures in rebounding since Mike Mitchell pulled down 11.4 boards a game in 1974-75, not even Barkley.
The Tigers haven't had much beef inside in recent years. Slender Asauhn Dixon-Tatum led the team last season with 6.0 boards a game.
Bowers, a onetime Florida State signee, has brought plenty of physicality since transferring from Chipola College.
The Tigers also have 7-2 freshman Trayvon Reed who joined the team in December and is still playing limited minutes. Bowers helped spark Auburn to a come-from-behind win over Missouri after drawing a flagrant foul from Post, which Pearl said fired up his team.
''He's really the heart of the team. When he gets going, that's their leader right there,'' Missouri's Keith Shamburger said after the game. ''He pumps up the crowd, he pumps up everybody on the team.''
Bowers even turned toward the stands and flexed his biceps after drawing a foul following a basket in the last two minutes of the victory over Missouri. No stranger to showmanship himself, Pearl doesn't mind that sort of behavior when it's not directed toward the other team.
''As long as the actions are fairly positive, not taunting, then I'm OK with it,'' Pearl said. ''When a player crosses the line, and they will sometimes, we'll address it and try to reel them back in. But there is nothing so far that I see that isn't just good old-fashioned hustle and emotion.''
Bowers doesn't lack for either when it comes to scoring and rebounding, though Pearl wasn't thrilled with his defensive effort in the loss to Vanderbilt. He's averaging 13.7 points and drawing frequent trips to the free throw line, while hitting only 48 percent of his foul shots.
Bowers said he's working to hit 100-200 free throws daily to improve that accuracy.
He's not shy on or off the court.
''I like when other teams talk junk,'' Bowers said. ''That sparks me up. I can't play silent, you know? I like to talk a lot of junk. I'm not cocky, but that's what I like to do.''
As for the celebration of big plays, he said: ''That's just me.''