Ben Bowen Didn't Hesitate When Jeff Linder Offered a Scholarship for the Wyoming Class of 2021-22
Ben Bowen wasted no time. In the later days of June -- a year before he will graduated from Mountain Vista High School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado -- he was offered a basketball scholarship to the University of Wyoming.
He accepted without hesitation.
It's what he wanted -- a chance to play for Jeff Linder, the new Wyoming basketball coach who first got in touch with Bowen when Linder was coaching at Northern Colorado, and kept in touch after his mid-March hiring at Wyoming.
"Coach Linder has been recruiting me for over a year now, and we developed a really good relationship," Bowen said. "Wyoming was the offer I was waiting for. To have a Mountain West offer is pretty special to me. It felt like a good fit. I'm excited about it."
By NCAA rules, Linder can't confirm Bowen's situation until after he signs a letter of intent, and that won't happen until next November, in the early signing period. But it's no secret he has been following Bowen closely for the better part of the last two years, and had to be particularly impressed by the emergence of Bowen as a force on the court midway through his junior year.
Bowen finished the season averaging 16.5 points per game and 4.2 rebounds. He was a Class 5A honorable mention, which is impressive considering among the 10 players selected to the Class 5A first team and second team, nine were seniors.
And considering the Cowboys do not have any potential seniors on their roster for the 2020-21 season, barring a transfer, Bowen was given the only open scholarship Wyoming knows it will have.
"What I really like about coach Linder is he let me know from the get go that he believed in me," said Bowen. "He talked about the player I can become. It is why I committed to play for him."
And it is not like Bowen is unaware of the world of basketball at the high school, collegiate and professional levels. His father, Ryan Bowen, has an impressive resume on the hardwoods.
He played collegiate basketball at Iowa, where he finished in the top 10 in career blocks and rebounds, and still holds the school record in steals. He played in the NBA with the Denver Nuggets (1999-04), Houston Rockets (2004-06), New Orleans Hornets (2007-09) and Oklahoma City Thunder (2010).
He has coached in the NBA since 2011, working with the Nuggets from 2011-13 and again since the 2015-16 season, with two years as an assistant with the Sacramento Kings in between the stints in Denver.
The elder Bowen quickly endorsed his son's collegiate decision.
"Coach Linder seems to have a pretty good way with the young players," said the father. "There's one kid they just signed (at Wyoming) who had several Power 5 offers, and after one conversation with coach Linder he committed to Wyoming."
Jeremiah Oden, a 6-foot-8 forward from Chicago, was the seventh scholarship player to sign with Wyoming for the coming season. His offers included New Meixco, Wisconsin, UTEP, San Francisco, Illinois State, and Illinois-Chicago.
The first time he spoke with Linder he was sold on being a Cowboy.
"I picked Wyoming because I feel like I’ve never had any head coach recruit and put time into me like Coach Linder did," Oden said. "He laid out a clear plan for me since the first day we started talking. (He) watched about seven of my full games of film and (he) broke down film with me to show me where I could improve and how I could help them.
"That’s all before I even decided to go there so that says a lot about him as a person. The whole coaching staff was actively recruiting me not just one or two people, and they all see me being able to have a big impact from day one."
That type of approach had a big impact of the elder Bowen as well as his son.
They saw close up how Linder took Northern Colorado, and after a losing season his first year, ran off three consecutive 20-plus win seasons for the first time in school history. They also won each of those three years against Wyoming -- in Laramie.
"You look at what he had at Northern Colorado, taking kids who maybe weren't the highest level of recruits, kids that were walk-ons and all of a sudden they had an impact," said Ryan Bowen. "He definitely has a great track record in player development. That was a big thing for us. Ben has a lot of work to do, but he saw some things in (Ben Bowen). He liked the way he played and built a relationship that made us comfortable."
Just how strong a relationship Linder builds with recruits is as obvious as freshmen guards Xavier DuSell, ranked among the top 10 players in the state of Arizona, and Jeremiah Oden, the No. 3 rated prospect in the Houston, Tex., area. They both initially committed to Northern Colorado, but changed the to Wyoming as soon as Linder was hired.
"He is very, very forward thinking," said Ryan Bowen. "He wants to know how the game is evolving, how things are done in the NBA. He wants to stay up on the time, aloways looking to evolve and improve.
"I was able to take Ben up to a practice (at Northern Colorado) lat season and was really impressed with how he conducted the session," Ryan Bowen said.
It's an approach that impressed Wyoming Athletic Director Tom Burman as well.
That's why Linder was the only coach Burman had serious contracts talks with after Allen Edwards was let go.