Highly-touted NBA prospect Brian Bowen has inked a deal with the Sydney Kings, becoming the first player signed under the NBL’s newly-created Next Stars initiative.
The 19-year-old, suspended last season amid an FBI probe into alleged under-the-table US college payments, will seek to revive his sunken NBA draft stocks in Australia.
The NBL announced Bowen would start his professional career in Australia as part of the pathway program, first launched in March, after pulling out of the 2018 NBA Draft.
Bowen is confident the move is the “perfect next step” on his unconventional journey to fulfil an NBA dream.
“I couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to start my professional career and look forward to learning from all the team’s veteran pros, like Andrew Bogut, Jerome Randle and Brad Newley,” Bowen said in a statement on Wednesday.
“I can’t wait to get out to Sydney and join the team.”
The former high school star was ranked the 14th-best recruit by ESPN for the 2017-18 college season, committing to the University of Louisville as a likely one-and-done player.
But Bowen never made his debut for the NCAA division one heavyweight after being accused of accepting $US100,000 from a sportswear giant to join the Cardinals.
He transferred to South Carolina to train with the team and was considered an outside chance of being drafted in the second round until his withdrawal.
NBL chief executive Jeremy Loeliger is backing the 201cm forward to follow in the footsteps of Oklahoma City’s Terrance Ferguson, who bypassed college and used the Adelaide 36ers as a one-season stepping stone to enter the NBA.
“We have a record 10 Australians playing in the NBA right now and Australian basketball is probably more highly regarded around the world than it has ever been,” Loeliger said.
“The Next Stars program will give guys like Brian the chance to refine their game in a world-class league in the NBL and, just like Terrance, demonstrate that they’re ready for the NBA.”
Sydney Kings coach Andrew Gaze believes the young gun can contribute right away.
“Brian has great size and athleticism and will provide us with options in the three spot,” the Boomers great said.
Bowen averaged 21.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists a game in his senior year at La Lumiere.