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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)


COLUMBIA - Jalen Hudson weighed his options after working out for NBA teams, thought carefully and announced Tuesday that he would return to Florida next season. Ditto Auburn's Bryce Brown and Austin Wiley.

Those three and several others across the country had their choices and picked school over the uncertainty of a pro career. Brian Bowen would do the same if he had the same choice.

But he doesn't, and unless that changes before 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, he'll reluctantly have to choose pro basketball. He and South Carolina coach Frank Martin have said that he wants to be in school next year, that he wants to play basketball for the Gamecocks.

With the NCAA still silent on his eligibility, though, he doesn't want to risk sacrificing another year of not playing ball when he obviously has a route that would allow him to play.

"You just wish that you could have the information that you need. Not having the insight, you don't really know where to go," USC athletic director Ray Tanner said last week. "You don't want to pile on anybody or blame anybody, but from where we sit, we'd like for them to make a decision. I'm a little bit pessimistic we're going to have all the information we need in the next seven days."

That number has been shortened to one day. All underclassmen have to declare that they're in or out of the draft by a minute before midnight Wednesday. The NCAA has been looking at Bowen's case since January with no word on when or if they'll ever reach a decision, and that's what has Bowen and USC stuck in no man's land.

If the NCAA would just assure Bowen that he will be made eligible at some point, Bowen would most likely stay in school and wait for that day. There would be the question of any punishment the NCAA might hand him that would still keep him out, but at least he'd know a date of when he could put on the uniform and play.

They haven't done so. There's not been a peep uttered from the governing body, and Tanner, Martin or Bowen can't do anything about it. They don't know if the NCAA needs more information or needs to talk to someone else allegedly involved in the FBI sting that got Bowen declared ineligible in the first place.

So with that unknown in play, and knowing that if he came back to school he may be waiting more months before he'll ever play, Bowen did the sensible thing and worked out for NBA scouts. He did not improve his standing enough to feel good about being drafted, but if Wednesday's deadline passes with no word from the NCAA, he'll either play in the G League, which is the NBA's development league, or go overseas.

"I don't know if we'll get the answer in a timely fashion. It does seem reasonable that Brian Bowen will be able to make a decision based on the knowledge that he has about his eligibility and whether he decides to go pro or not," Tanner said. "You'd like to think he would have all the information he needs to make his decision, and I'm not sure that's going to happen."

Bowen could also go pro if the NCAA does issue a decree about his eligibility, because there still may be additional punishment. He transferred, which put the year-long transfer rule into play; that means he couldn't play until the first semester is complete (early December), although USC will present an argument in that case.

USC will appeal to the NCAA saying that Bowen hasn't played in a year anyway, so why make him sit an extra semester? But that would be up to the NCAA to decide, since Bowen didn't transfer from Louisville until January and the transfer rule says to sit out one year from that date, unless there's a hardship.

The NCAA could also extend Bowen's suspension after the transfer rule. Auburn's Danjel Purifoy was docked all of last year and 30 percent of this season's games, and that 30 percent (or more, or less) could be added to Bowen's sentence as well. If he hears that he'll be made eligible but have to sit out the first semester due to transfer, plus a good chunk of the remaining season, he may go pro anyway.

But he hasn't heard a word yet on what or when the NCAA may say. His lawyer, Jason Setchen, has been chiding the NCAA on Twitter, and USC fans have followed his lead. They feel, like Setchen does, that there has been no new information or anything keeping a decision for six months and the NCAA is destroying a 19-year-old's dream.

None of it has helped get a decision any quicker. Bowen will wait, as he's done for a long time, and hope for an answer by 11:59 p.m.

The clock is ticking, as it has since January.

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May 29, 2018


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