By Matt Norlander
There’s NBA potential with him — he’s just got to learn to work for it.
James Madison senior Denzel Bowles, “unequivocally the best low-post scorer in” the CAA, according to his coach, Matt Brady, has the tools but not the mindset of day-to-day, week-to-week dedication a 6-10, 260-pound player needs to make it at the highest level.
Brady was brutally honest about the Texas A&M transfer who averaged 20.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per game last season, leading the CAA in both categories while also finishing third in the country in field-goal percentage (59.4).
“The issue with Denzel with the teams in the NBA is, will he work hard enough?” Brady said. “At that level, it’s as much about work ethic as it is about skill or talent.”
Right now, he’s just too good for his own good. That’s what’s stalling his development.
“I don’t think there’s anyone in our league who can guard him one-on-one, and that’s the problem,” Brady said. “He needs to learn to work harder ... and that’s still a work in progress.”
Bowles first went to A&M because he was heavily recruited by then-Wichita State head coach Mark Turgeon.
Turgeon got the job in College Station and kept his promise to Bowles.
But Bowles wasn’t getting minutes there, plus, he was homesick; he hails from Virginia Beach, which is two and a half hours from JMU. Since he’s been with the Dukes, Bowles has been a matchup nightmare.
“He’s surprisingly athletic and is a tremendously gifted passer,” Brady said. “There was a tremendous need for him to score for us last year, too … truthfully, he’s the focal point of our offensive deployment.”
How many 6-10 players are the focal point of any offense in D-I?
That’s why Bowles is special and frustrating for Brady at times, though the coach leaves some blame for himself.
“Changing ends from offense to defense is something — cardiovascularity, I guess — we haven’t done a good enough job with him on,” Brady said. “We need to work with him on that more.”
JMU won 13 games last year. Brady spoke as if the team will eclipse that number by early February, if not sooner. The Dukes begin their season next weekend at the CBE Classic in Kansas City with a game against K-State
“There’s really no secret here. If we don’t play as hard as we can possibly play, we can’t even come close to winning the game,” Brady said. The Dukes are scrimmaging Georgetown this weekend to get a peek into the high-major world and gauge this team’s early-season potential.