Marquette Wire

Cinmeon Bowers gets chance to ‘play for the home team’ with Golden Eagles Alumni

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

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Cinmeon Bowers, a Racine native, is fulfilling a childhood dream by wearing a Golden Eagles uniform in The Basketball Tournament.

“I grew up as a fan watching D-Wade,” Bowers said. “I always wanted to play for the home team.”

As Bowers entered his junior year at Rufus King International High School, a 15-minute drive from campus, that aspiration seemed viable.

“He was a version of LeBron James. He could get to that rim any time he wanted,” former King head coach Jim Gosz said. “He was so strong at the high school level without ever lifting a weight in his life.”

Then-Marquette associate head coach Tony Benford and head coach Buzz Williams were recruiting the Milwaukee King product. DePaul, Iowa and Memphis offered him scholarships.

Bowers’ road to the Al McGuire Center was far more challenging than expected.

Everything changed on a wintry February day in 2011.

After a snowstorm canceled basketball practice, Bowers and longtime friend Elgin Cook were hanging out in Cook’s car near Sherman Boulevard in Milwaukee’s north side.

Two men then approached the vehicle with guns. As Cook tried to drive away, the men shot at the car. Cook left unscathed, but Bowers was hit five times in the leg and thigh.

“I thought it was over,” Bowers said. “I thought all my dreams just went down the drain.”

Cook, who remains close with Bowers and also plays on Golden Eagles Alumni, still grimaces at the thought of that night.

“It was sort of eye-opening,” Cook said. “You hear about certain things, and you read about certain things. It’s different when you’re in that situation.”

Cook’s instincts in the life-changing experience saved Bowers’ life, but it was not an easy recovery. 

“It was a process. I couldn’t walk,” Bowers said. “I had to learn to walk all over again.”

Everything that seemed so certain before the incident was all of a sudden gone. The Marquette relationship ended.

“They never gave me the offer,” Bowers said. “I had the situation and that was just bad repping my name. They just didn’t want to go that route.”

He went from having interest from Louisville, Marquette, Miami and Texas to not being able to play Division I basketball, yet he kept a positive mindset throughout the ruthless process.

“It was a tough time,” Bowers said. “I just kept God first and just kept pushing and working hard.”

Bowers never played a high school game in the state of Wisconsin. After being academically ineligible for the first five semesters of high school, he was set to make his debut Feb. 4 against Milwaukee Northwest.

The shooting happened three days earlier.

“He was just starting to turn the corner when he was over at Rufus King … he was not a Boy Scout,” Gosz said. “We were a pretty good team without him. We would’ve been unstoppable (with Bowers).”

Many of his teammates never saw him again.

“He fell off the face of the Earth,” Gosz said. “I’ve never seen or heard from him since … He had friends on the team, and they didn’t even know where he was.”

Bowers said it took a year and a half to get back to where he was before the shooting. While his teammates at Milwaukee King went to the state championship game in 2012, Bowers never found the Division I offer out of high school he dreamed of.

He played two years at Chipola College, a junior college in Florida 90 minutes northwest of Tallahassee and 25 minutes away from the Florida-Alabama border.

The 6-foot-8 post player had another “stupid situation” that almost set him back again.

In 2014, Bowers was charged with possession of marijuana under 20 grams, a misdemeanor in Florida. Two months later, the prosecutor dropped the charges.

“A girl was smoking weed in the car and they thought it was us,” Bowers explained. “We had no weed on us … We beat the case and did the race.”

Then came his big break. After two years at Chipola College, Auburn offered him a scholarship for his last two years of eligibility.

An endorsement from his former high school coach helped make the opportunity possible. Gosz still remembers what he told Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl.

“Between the basketball lines, you’re not going to have problems with Cinmeon,” Gosz told Pearl. “Cinmeon loved the game, and he respected the basketball world. I had zero problems with him.”

Bowers quickly distinguished himself as one of the best rebounders in the Southeastern Conference, which led to an overseas career in Israel, the Philippines and Japan. He averaged 14.2 points and 8.4 rebounds in 2017-‘18 as a member of Earthfriends Tokyo Z, a team in Japan’s second-tier basketball league.

“I really still can’t believe it,” Bowers said. “I’m still playing.”

His pro career brought him back to Milwaukee to play in The Basketball Tournament, but he isn’t entirely caught up in the sentimentality of playing in a Golden Eagles uniform. He wants to win.

“It was just a great feeling,” Bowers said. “I felt good, looked good. I wish I could come here earlier, but now I’m here trying to win TBT for Marquette.”

Another longtime friend, Jamil Wilson, connected him with Golden Eagles Alumni. The 6-foot-7 forward, who played at Marquette from 2011-’14, is also a Racine native and has known Bowers since high school.

“Dan (Fitzgerald) texted me and was like, ‘Hey we need size,’” Wilson said. “I asked Cinmeon, and I asked J.P. Tokoto, but he is doing (NBA) Summer League.”

When former Marquette guard Darius Johnson-Odom couldn’t make it to Milwaukee for the BIG EAST pod at the end of June, Cook was already working out with the team and was the logical replacement.

“I got a lot of friends that play on this team, longtime friends,” Cook said. “I just came here to work out, and they called me and said they wanted me to play.”

And now six years later than anticipated, Bowers is finally a part of the Marquette family.

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