Bowie delves back into the lane
To hear Maryland junior guard Adrian Bowie tell it, the start he's gotten off to this season -- his third in College Park -- reminds him a lot of his freshman year, when he averaged 12.4 minutes per game and struggled to find his niche on the team. Athletic and quick, Bowie is not without natural talents that enable him to be effective on the court when he puts them to proper use. But he felt like during the first two months of this season he'd gotten away from the forte it took him so long to realize.
Bowie unquestionably is most dynamic on offense when he is driving to the basket. Last season, his value to the team was amplified by the fact that, if nothing else, Bowie would find a way to carve a route into the lane. He's quick enough to get past most opposing guards, he's strong enough to get up a shot in traffic and he's athletic enough to rise above the long arms of those opposing post players who would try to block his path to the rim. He started for most of the year and averaged 24.1 minutes per game.
Over the summer, Bowie spent considerable time working on his jump shot in order to diversify his game. The only issue was that at the season's outset, his shooting percentage did not reflect the work he had put into his form. Even worse, an ominous trend formed. Instead of first looking to drive to the basket, Bowie admittedly settled too many times for jump shots. When they didn't fall*, Bowie kept right on shooting, which established an interesting paradox in which he was caught: He had to keep shooting in order to break out of his slump, but by continuing to shoot, he stayed away from the component of his game that made him most valuable.
* Bowie is shooting 35.8 percent from the field and 19.0 percent (4 for 21) from three-point range.
On Sunday at UNC Greensboro -- after a week of reviewing film of his previous performances this season -- Bowie made a noticeable shift in his plan of attack and began re-asserting himself as the team's preeminent slasher. He shot 5 of 9 from the field, and of those five makes, four of them came on layups. Bowie finished with 11 points in 27 minutes.
"I was working on that in practice the last couple of days, just trying to attack and get into the lane," said Bowie, who is averaging 16.2 minutes per game this season. "That’s what I do best, so I stopped settling for jump shots and do what I do best."
Bowie said that while watching game film -- something he didn't do as frequently during his freshman season -- over the past week he noticed lanes that were open, but that he passed up in favor of a jump shot.
Bowie's drives into the lane are so useful to the team because he doesn't halt at the first obstacle. Rather, he evades it and continues onward toward the basket. This forces opposing defenses to collapse around him even further, which means that even if he doesn't find a shot worth taking, he often can find a teammate left open by the defensive attention he has garnered.
Was Bowie pressing earlier in the season to prove that all the work he had put into his jump shot over the summer would pay tangible and immediate dividends? Coach Gary Williams said after the game Sunday that that was probably the case. But Williams noted that the only positive solution was for Bowie to play his way out of his slump, and the coach believed Bowie took an encouraging first step in that regard against the Spartans.
"Adrian’s a good shooter," Williams said. "He hasn’t shot it great from outside. He had a great summer, and he’s going to shoot the ball well. But I think the drives have to come first for Adrian. It makes him aggressive, and then when he gets that open jump shot, he’ll see it and he’ll take it without hesitating. Once you start to make a couple, it doesn’t matter whether they’re lay-ps or whatever they are, it seems like it just settles you down a little bit and lets you become a better offensive player."
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