Northeast Times

Focusing on youth, Lincoln builds toward future

Les­son plan: Seni­or Ad­onis Ros­ar­io (cen­ter) leads last Fri­day’s prac­tice. Off to a 2-6 start to the sea­son, the Railsplit­ters have been pleased with the sud­den emer­gence of fresh­man point guard Blaire Bowes. MARIA POUCH­NIKOVA / TIMES PHO­TOS

At just 2-6, there have been a few more lows than highs thus far for the Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln boys bas­ket­ball team. Four of the six losses have come by 20 points or more, and the Railsplit­ters’ most re­cent game, a 70-28 drub­bing at Cent­ral on Jan. 2, was es­pe­cially for­get­table.

However, this hasn’t ne­ces­sar­ily been a bad thing for Lin­coln and head coach Al Brown, who is at the helm of a re­l­at­ively young, in­ex­per­i­enced group. Though he has a few seni­ors, Brown has been more fo­cused on the de­vel­op­ment of the young­er play­ers with­in the pro­gram. 

The coach main­tains the ground­work for a bet­ter fu­ture already has been es­tab­lished, and no play­er is more at the fore­front of this move­ment than Blaire Bowes. 

Bowes is a fresh­man, and in most in­stances ninth graders don’t sniff the court. There’s of­ten too much to learn, and throw­ing a ninth-grader in­to the fire of a Phil­adelphia Pub­lic or Cath­ol­ic League con­test tends to be met with an over­whelm­ing sense of con­fu­sion.

Luck­ily for the Railsplit­ters, Bowes isn’t most cases. Through eight games, he’s already es­tab­lished him­self as the team’s start­ing point guard, av­er­aging 10 points per game in ad­di­tion to dis­trib­ut­ing the ball at an im­press­ive rate. Like any fresh­man, he’s still learn­ing, but the res­ults so far have been pos­it­ive.

Bowes was out sick dur­ing last Fri­day’s vis­it to Lin­coln’s prac­tice, but the young floor gen­er­al had plenty of sup­port from his team­mates and coach­ing staff.

“He’s come out with a lot of thun­der,” said seni­or Ad­onis Ros­ar­io, who spoke glow­ingly of his young team­mate while nurs­ing a sore ham­string on the side­line. “He and I have been neck-in-neck lead­ing the team in scor­ing. He’s really something else. When I’m not out there, he leads the team. He stands out.”

Ros­ar­io said he “gets on” Bowes “like he’s my young­er broth­er.” If any­thing, Ros­ar­io sees the po­ten­tial in his team­mate and has done everything pos­sible to groom him to be ready to take over the team when Ros­ar­io gradu­ates.

There’s been no doubt of Bowes’ lead­er­ship abil­it­ies.

“That Cent­ral game, it shattered my con­fid­ence,” Ros­ar­io said. “And Blaire was the first one to call me out on it after the game. He’s not afraid to say something to me if he thinks I’m not push­ing my­self. He un­der­stands the game. He’s built for this.”

For a team that has been on the wrong side of sev­er­al ugly losses, the de­vel­op­ment of a po­ten­tial star play­er is enough to get every­body in­volved with the pro­gram ex­cited. Brown, in his third year as Lin­coln’s head coach, wants to har­ness his team’s youth and foster an en­vir­on­ment where his play­ers can suc­ceed with­in his sys­tem. 

The biggest chal­lenge, as Brown tells it, is keep­ing the play­ers con­fid­ent in their abil­it­ies as bas­ket­ball play­ers and not want­ing to give up on the sea­son after a 42-point loss. For Lin­coln, hav­ing a young, sur­pris­ing lead­er has helped.

“He’s got a mo­tor on him,” Brown said. “He’s got the heart of a li­on and a lot of drive out there on the court. He sure isn’t afraid. He just isn’t out here to play … he wants to win. If we lose a game, you can tell he’s very up­set. He’s got that fire burn­ing in­side of him.”

It’s still early enough in the sea­son for Lin­coln to aim for the post­season, but it won’t sig­ni­fy the end-all, be-all if they don’t make it there. The Railsplit­ters are real­iz­ing pro­gress can­not be meas­ured overnight.

“The most prom­ising part is the youth we have here,” Brown said. “I tell them not to give up on them­selves if they have a bad loss. It’s why I try to find one good thing we did in every game and build on it the next time out. I want to see some type of im­prove­ment. I want to win, but if it’s a loss, I’d still like to pin­point the things we did well and build upon that. 

With Bowes, de­scribed as a situ­ation­al, pass-first combo guard who isn’t afraid to cre­ate his own shot (many times by at­tack­ing the rim and go­ing at play­ers who are much taller), the fu­ture is seem­ingly bright for the Railsplit­ters.

“I just tell Blaire and the rest of the guys to keep work­ing hard,” Ros­ar­io said. “This team, they’re the found­a­tion. I’m done, off to col­lege soon. All I can keep telling them is to keep work­ing hard every day, don’t give up, don’t un­der­es­tim­ate any­body, and, most im­port­antly, don’t waste that op­por­tun­ity that you’ve got in front of you.”

So far, Bowes hasn’t. ••

Sports Ed­it­or Ed Mor­rone can be reached at 215-354-3035 or em­or­rone@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at emorrone@bsmphilly.com.

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