Northern Iowa offer is just the beginning for Norwalk 2020 PG Bowen Born
Norwalk's shocking 67-58 loss to Glenwood in last year's Class 3A state quarterfinals still sits fresh in Bowen Born's mind.
One play, in particular.
It was late in the third quarter. Born got trapped after advancing the ball past halfcourt. He made an ill-advised pass over the top ... right to a Glenwood player. The turnover became a fast-break layup that sent the Rams' raucous student section into a frenzy.
That cut Norwalk's 18-point halftime lead to 47-38 with 2:05 left in the third.
From then on, Glenwood dominated Born's team 29-11.
Two days later, it would claim its first 3A state title.
"I still think about it pretty much daily," Born said, shaking away the memory after his Cap City League debut Sunday in West Des Moines. "It’s good, because I use it as motivation. Whenever I don't want to go shoot, I’ll watch some highlights of that game or something and think, 'Oh, I’ve got to go now.'"
Maybe the motivation works, because Born, who scored 18.4 points per game as a sophomore, has played inspired basketball this offseason.
The spring and summer before a prospect's junior year are crucial. It's when the best of the best start to separate themselves from the thousands of kids who want to play college ball.
Born, the Register's No. 3 in-state 2020 prospect, has done just that.
Northern Iowa gave him his first offer in early May. Last Friday, the first day Division I coaches could directly contact 2020 prospects, Born heard from Iowa's Kirk Speraw, Drake's Matt Woodley and UNI's Ben Jacobson and P.J. Hogan, as well as coaches from Nebraska, Colorado State, Nebraska-Omaha and Miami of Ohio. Davidson assistant coach Kevin Kuwik called on Monday, too.
In addition to the schools that reached out, Born is also fielding interest from Minnesota, Iowa State and Milwaukee.
"They all kind of had the same message: They wanted to let me know, 'We’re calling you because we like the way you play,'" Born said. "Obviously, I talked to UNI a lot. And some texting with them, too, talking about camps and trying to make it out there."
Born was simply a name bouncing around in-state recruiting circles at this time last year. Now, he's one of the main headliners for Iowa's 2020 class, which features guys like Oskaloosa five-star forward Xavier Foster and Iowa City West forward Even Brauns.
Norwalk's point guard has earned this type of attention thanks to basketball smarts born from a childhood playing in an NBA practice facility, a lights-out 3-point stroke, and his ability to pick apart defenses with great court vision and passing skills.
His defensive intensity is a plus, too. In fact, that was the featured part of Born's game in Sunday's Cap City League opener, when he amassed three steals and a pair of assists playing against college guys four, five, even six years older than him.
"That’s one thing that I pride myself on: just playing defense," Born said. "Obviously, I’m not going to be the biggest, strongest guy — especially here. So anything I can do; that’s pretty much the mindset for me. Lock in and guard your guy."
As Born mentioned, the only real knock against his stock at this point is his size.
He stands about 5-foot-11 and is quite skinny. His dad, former Cyclone Mike Born, is 6-1, so there's reason to believe Bowen's got some growing left to do.
Schools interested in Born might be waiting to see how his body fills out as he gets older. He'll naturally add weight and strength through high school. And if he grows a couple inches, there's a better chance high-major interest turns into high-major offers.
But even if he doesn't grow another inch, Born is still a legitimate D-I talent.
There are countless examples of sub-6-foot guards who thrived in college. Kentucky's Tyler Ulis (5-9) and Kansas' Frank Mason III (5-11) come to mind.
UNI is thinking along the same lines. The Panthers monitored Born all year and are prepared to go all out in the Norwalk point guard's recruitment.
"When (UNI) offered me, they told me, if I do get bigger or not, they basically told me they didn't care because I still brought the right qualities," Born said. "That’s one of the things I remembered most because that’s what I try to do. Obviously, I probably won’t be 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds. But you can still impact the game in other ways, and that’s exactly what I try to do. It definitely means a lot to know that they notice that stuff. It just goes to show that hard work doesn't go unnoticed.
"Height is, in some ways, a factor. But in other ways, when I’m playing out there I’m not thinking, 'Oh, I’m 5-11 so I can’t do this.' It’s never been about that. I’m always going to go out there and I’m going to feel like I can do whatever I want to do."
Born will attend camps at UNI and Nebraska-Omaha over the next couple of weeks. It's not rare to see kids land offers at these camps, so keep an eye on Omaha.
Then comes July, which has the offseason's final three evaluation periods. Born, who plays on the Adidas Gauntlet with the Iowa Barnstormers, will likely receive more interest that month. He could see a couple more offers, too.
As a sophomore, Born was a killer from long range, shooting 42 percent on 3-pointers. As a junior, he wants to be better at creating his own shot. So, he said he's focused on improving his midrange game and his ball-handling this offseason.
Matthew Bain covers college football and basketball recruiting for the Des Moines Register. He also helps out with Iowa and Iowa State football and basketball coverage for HawkCentral and Cyclone Insider. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.