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 firstname.lastname@example.org