This season ArkansasRazorbacks.com will be running a weekly feature series highlighting a member of the 2012-13 team. This week the series focuses on sophomore Jhasmin Bowen.
In Arkansas' success this season, they have gotten a number of strong performances from unexpected sources. One of those surprises has been freshman Jhasmin Bowen. In her second season as a Razorback, Bowen has expanded her role exponentially and has become one of the more dependable frontcourt players on the roster.
Bowen started playing basketball later than most, but Arkansas was interested in her from the beginning. In high school she was a McDonald's All-American nominee and two-time first-team all-state. Her performance and talent captured the eye of the Arkansas coaching staff.
"I didn't start playing basketball until I was in seventh grade, and by the eighth grade the Arkansas coaches were following me," Bowen explained. "That was a big factor in why I came to Arkansas. I was tall and awkward back then, and all I could do was rebound. I wanted to major in accounting, and with the Sam Walton School of Business, I figured what better place was there to learn business. The big atmosphere of this campus, and the fact that it is only a few hours away from home, but being far enough to get the true college experience, were all good things in addition to how much I liked the coaching staff."
In her freshman season at Arkansas, Bowen did not see much playing time. She was set back by an early injury, and had to adjust to the college game. She played just 116 minutes over 16 games, but was productive, shooting 55.9 percent from the field. This season, she has capitalized on increased playing time, and had a breakout year.
"I really didn't play last year because I was behind a couple of juniors and seniors," Bowen said. "I just had to find my role and wait my turn. Freshmen year, not really getting to play, kind of set me back. My sophomore year now feels like my freshman year on the court. I'm still working on ways to score, finding adjustments playing against new players. It took me a while to figure out my strong points and do what I needed to do. This year I'm finally getting a chance to show what I can do in the game and how I can be a factor for the team."
Bowen came off the bench in the first four games of the season and posted double figures twice. At Arkansas' Thanksgiving tournament in Hawai'i, Razorback head coach Tom Collen made the tactical decision to bring Sarah Watkins off the bench to avoid early foul trouble. That move opened a starting spot, which Bowen grabbed and held on to, starting 21 consecutive games ever since.
"I've handled it really well," Bowen said. "I think it was a good move for our team to have Sarah come off the bench. It helps her get in the flow of the game without getting in foul trouble. It also gives me a chance to start the game off right and put us in a good position."
The Razorbacks have a talented duo of seniors in the frontcourt, the two leading scorers on the team in Watkins and Quistelle Williams. Playing with that tandem, Bowen has been able to improve her own game by learning from and incorporating elements of their play.
"It's great to play with those two seniors," Bowen said. "They are both great players for our program. I can learn a lot from them because they know what coach wants and what he expects. They are two different types of post players, so if I could take parts from both of them and become one player that would be good."
With both Watkins and Williams set to graduate after this season, Bowen will become a large part of the Arkansas future. As she works towards that moment, the coaching staff has been impressed by her dedication to continually improving and they are excited for what the next two years hold for her.
"She's done a great job for us," Collen said. "Starting her is a way to get her more minutes, and she's been a productive player for us. We always felt she could fill in admirably. Last year she didn't get a lot of minutes, but did some good things. When you leave her in there, she works hard, rebounds and puts it in the basket. She's proven she can score in and around the basket, and has stepped up as that third post player for us."
"After her freshman year she continued to play and work hard the whole summer and it's paying off for her," explained assistant coach Tari Cummings, who works specifically with Bowen in her work with the team's post players. "She's starting for us, she's getting quality minutes and she's been very productive. This summer she has more goals to she wants to work on. She is excited about her opportunities, and wants to take it and be the best she can be. I see her being a very intricate part of what we're going to do in the future."