Adrian Bowie was still soaking in the joy of actually winning an NCAA tournament —- and having quite a bit to do with it —- when Maryland toppled California last month in the round of 64.
He’d scored 12 points, his most in Maryland victory in almost exactly two months. He’d delivered seven assists, tying a career high.
And he’d simply befuddled a well-coached opponent, playing 36 minutes (more than anyone on his team not named Greivis Vasquez).
“I feel like a superstar right now,” a beaming Bowie said.
Those moments were more common earlier in the season, when Bowie was able to summon his slashing ability to surprise opponents who figured stopping Vasquez (and to a lesser extent, Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne) was all they really needed to do.
Vermont learned the hard way —- Bowie had 17 points and six rebounds (four offensive). So too did George Washington (17 points). Miami very well might have if Bowie didn’t foul out in Coral Gables (23 points).
But once late January hit … well, those big games didn’t happen quite so often. He got sick before a game at Georgia Tech and barely played that night.
His shaky outside shooting (22.4 percent from beyond the 3-point line) was noted, and Bowie was basically dared to try to hurt teams from the perimeter (he was 2-for-16 out there in February and March).
In short, Bowie’s season was a play in two acts. There was the part where he worked and worked and worked all summer and adapted his game after a freshman season ended in somewhat promising fashion. Bowie parlayed that into a fast start, and a spot in the starting lineup by early December.
Then there was the part when opponents adapted right back, taking away his driving lanes and in turn depriving him of his greatest strengths.
Now it’s Bowie’s move again, after a season that basically followed a natural course of events. His NCAA tournament work (11.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 4.0 apg) rates as encouraging, since he shook off a late fade to demonstrate he was indeed a vital part of Maryland’s success.
Bowie averaged 10.6 points through Jan. 31 and 6.7 points afterward (7.2 if the Georgia Tech cameo is tossed out), so there wasn’t exactly consistency. But since he averaged 3.7 points as a freshman, even that would have been considered encouraging.
Put together, Bowie finished with a reputable 9.0 average, all the while collecting some experience running the point and demonstrating the eagerness to writhe into a crowd to try to create something. That something wasn’t always good, but the effort was never in doubt.
That’s why there should be some optimism about Bowie’s longer-term prospects at Maryland. If Vasquez departs for the NBA, there’s no question Bowie becomes an even bigger piece of the Terps’ puzzle next season.
If Vasquez stays, Bowie is probably better off as a guy who can count on offseason improvement to lift his game (and, in turn, the Terps) a little bit higher next season rather than facing the requirement of taking another leap.
But that isn’t impossible. It’s not as if the junior-to-be won’t put the work in; like last summer, it’s safe to assume no one will need a GPS locator to figure out Bowie (the player, not the city) will be holed up in a gym.
Bowie improved his rebounding, ballhandling and per-minute scoring while looking even stronger and quicker as a sophomore, but his shooting faltered as he was forced to take a greater portion of his attempts from the outside (from 14.0 percent as a freshman to 24.7 percent as a sophomore).
It’s a safe bet developing a reliable perimeter game (or even a deadly 14-to-16-foot jumper, which could also keep foes honest) will be one of Bowie’s objectives this summer —- and the one that would surely lead to an uptick next season.
It might not turn him into a superstar, but it sure would make him even more dangerous in the second half of his college game.
—- Patrick Stevens