“To say that I am excited is an understatement,” says Jaycie Bowen after making the biggest decision on her young life, as she announced this past weekend that she will take her basketball skills to the next level at Georgia College.
The two-sport star athlete (softball and basketball) had choices to play in either sport, but it was Georgia College that sold her on continuing her hoops career collegiately. She makes the commitment just over a month prior to beginning her senior year at Banks County.
“It is a humbling feeling to know that I was lucky enough to get to make the decision before my senior year,” adds Bowen with a sense of relief. “I am just so blessed that I had a couple of offers really early and I have been praying about it for awhile.”
With Bowen being equally dominant in both sports, it wasn’t a given that she’d choose basketball.
With the decision to play basketball at the next level, are you still planning on playing softball this year and in the future?
“Well, it is funny because everybody thought I would go for softball, especially my dad [coach Tony Bowen]. I had some offers when I was a freshman, but I just couldn’t shake how much I loved basketball. All of my coaches (school and travel) were always supportive of me playing both sports. I can remember when I would play a basketball game, and then go play a softball game, all in the same day or weekend. I just loved playing both.
I am fully committed to playing softball my senior year for Banks, especially because I get to play one last year for my dad…but we are going after that State Championship!”
The Lady Leopards have a great shot after finishing just one win shy of the championship game last year, finishing with a fantastic and historic quarterfinals run.
What sold you on Georgia College? Did they discuss perhaps the option for you to play early?
“Honestly, Coach [Maurice] Smith and I never really talked about playing time. When I was a freshman, Banks County attended the basketball camp during the summer, and that was the first time he noticed me. He told me then that he wanted me to remember that he was the first to coach to offer. I think that was also the first time I started thinking that I wanted to play basketball in college.
GC has an amazing nursing program, and it is close to my family here in Banks County, and my parents’ family in Statesboro and Savannah. Coach Smith also came several times to watch me play. It was important for me to pick a school that had my degree, and then focus on whatever role Coach Smith sees me fitting in when I get there. My parents have told me that Rudy had a movie made after him, and he never played, but he got an education, and that’s what is most important.”
What other schools were knocking on your door?
“I have had some interest from many schools — North Georgia, Presbyterian, Emmanuel, Greenville, Georgia Southern, Mercer, West Georgia, UNC at Pembroke, Young Harris, Augusta, Lee…those are just some that showed interest. I loved Emmanuel and Coach [Mike] Bona, but in the end it came down to what schools offered my degree.
GC let me know early on that they encouraged their players to pursue any degree, and would work around my schedule if I needed to attend a lab or clinical. That was extremely important to me because many colleges will not do that for their student athletes.”
What area of your game do you plan to work on the most to get ready for the next level?
“I have been working hard on my outside shots, as well as playing more of a wing. For the past two travel ball seasons, I have been playing for Ryan Pitts, and he has allowed me to have some freedom with those positions. Coach [Steve] Shedd has been one of my biggest supporters in trying to become versatile on the court. I also am working on my leadership skills on and off the court, I think it is important to not just be an athlete but being a positive role model in the community.”
For Banks County, how does the team react to losing a talented senior class after an historic postseason run?
“Well, we had a lot of girls get hurt this summer, so it allowed many of our underclassmen the opportunity to step up and get some playing time. It is going to be hard without Allison [Smith]; she is not just a great ball player, but she was such a strong force on our team. But I think our seniors — Amber Williams, Layna Parson, Kennedy Smith, Kaylyn Gilstrap — are going to fill that role.
We are all such a tight-knit family and with all of us together, I think we are going to be a team that looks different from the past, but just as strong. We all love each other and work amazing with each other, and I think we have a great shot to earn that Region [8-AA] Championship again. Coach Shedd always has something he his working on, and he manages to pull out the best in all of us.”