Bowman Credits Love of the Game, GU Community for Her Success
Gonzaga’s all-star junior forward Heather Bowman is getting a lot of practice these days in her academic major, applied communication studies, fielding the ever-increasing requests from media who want to know what makes her so unstoppable on the basketball court.
While the accolades and media attention are nothing new for the 6-foot-2-inch product of Spokane’s Lewis and Clark High School, the level of honors continues to rise. Case in point: Bowman is the first Bulldog to be named to the preseason Women’s Wooden Award All-American Team and Player of the Year trophy.
Heather is one of only 30 student-athletes nationwide nominated for college basketball’s most prestigious honor.
Coach Kelly Graves can’t say enough about the positive impact Bowman has had on the Gonzaga women’s program.
The Heather Bowman File
High School: Lewis and Clark
Birthday: March 15 (1988)
Siblings: Older sister Stephanie, 22, and 12-year-old brother Nick
Pets: Striker, a poodle and Chihuahua mix
Residence: Off-campus with two teammates
Major: Applied Communications
Favorite Class: U.S. History taught by Assistant Professor Robert Donnelly
Favorite Food: Chinese
Favorite Team: Gonzaga!
Favorite free time activities: Playing any sport and going to movies with friends
“I am just so happy for her. She deserves it,” Graves said. “She is a great player but she is also just an awesome person. It is nice that Heather was recognized and that the women’s basketball community knows what a talented player she is.”
The Wooden Award Committee will release the Midseason Top 20 list in mid-January, followed by the National Ballot in March, which trims the list to some 15 players. The Women's Wooden Award All-American Team will be announced during the NCAA Tournament.
Bowman, a four-year starter at L.C., who earned a 3.56 high-school GPA, led the Tigers to four-straight Washington 4A State Tournament appearances. She powered L.C. to the 4A State Championship in 2006, earning Tournament MVP honors, and helped L.C. finish third in the 4A State championships as a junior. She was second-team All-State as a junior and first-team as a senior while finishing her high school career as the Greater Spokane League’s all-time leading scorer (1,680 points).
At Gonzaga, Bowman already has racked up a lengthy list of accomplishments. In her freshman year alone, she was named the West Coast Conference Newcomer of the Year, the MVP of the WCC Tournament, and to the WCC All-Freshman Team and first team All-WCC. She started 29 games as a sophomore, missing five with a spiral fracture of her left hand, and was named WCC Player of the Year along with numerous other awards en route to becoming the first player in Gonzaga women’s basketball history to score more than 1,000 points in two seasons (1,025 points).
This season, Bowman continues to blaze a path of excellence. On Sunday afternoon (Dec. 14), she tallied her fourth double-double in five games to lead the 9-3 Zags to an 86-61 victory over Portland State at the McCarthey Athletic Center. Heather poured in 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, one shy of tying her career-high.
Perhaps most remarkable about Bowman may be her knack for staying out of the training room and on the court. The six games she has missed as a collegian all were due to injury. She sat out five games as a sophomore due to a spiral fracture in her non-shooting hand, and one this season due to elbow surgery on her shooting arm. She has earned WCC Player of the Week honors already twice this season.
Bowman never missed a beat when she returned from injury last season, Graves said.
“People forget she played two-thirds of the season with a cast-like wrap on her hand and still put up the numbers she did,” says Graves. “Despite the attention from other teams’ defenses, she consistently put up 20 (points) and 10 (rebounds) every night. I’ve coached in the WCC for 16 years and have coached nine players who have won the WCC Player of the Year and I honestly feel that Heather could be one of the best of them all. I believe Heather is one of the top players in the nation.”
Bowman attributes her many accomplishments with the Lady Zags to a love of the game and support she receives from the Gonzaga community – especially her academic advisers who have kept her on track. She said her time-management strategy is dictated in large part by her basketball and class schedules.
“I always make sure to manage my time around practice and games and plan accordingly so I can get my work done in advance,” she says.
Like many college student-athletes, Heather’s interest in basketball began at an early age.
“I started playing in fifth grade, and in middle school I realized I wanted to play more competitively,” she said, explaining how she decided to play in the uber-competitive Spokane Stars AAU program before her junior year in high school and helped lead the Stars to national prominence. As a high school senior, Bowman was rated the No. 38 best prospect in the nation by Scout.com.
When deciding on which college to attend, Bowman trimmed her list to four schools: the universities of Oregon,
Washington, Notre Dame and, of course, Gonzaga. “I did not originally want to stay in Spokane, but my campus visit at Gonzaga just felt right,” she said. “I felt a connection with the people and the coaches, but more importantly, I liked the direction the basketball program was heading.”
Deciding where to attend school was not the only tough decision for Bowman as a high school senior. She learned the importance of priorities early on and continues to seek balance in her life as both a student and an athlete. A typical day for Bowman includes breakfast, a trip to McCarthey for elbow rehabilitation, practice, lunch, classes, dinner, homework and then, if time allows, some free time with friends. Truth be told, there’s not much extra time during the basketball season because of the intense demands of a modern student-athlete.
As one of the best players in the country, Bowman said she has learned to deal with media better each year, although it wasn’t easy as a freshman.
“Freshman year was pretty nerve-racking, especially being from Spokane and seeing so many people I knew in the stands,” she says. “Now I welcome all of our supporters and have become more comfortable with the media and large crowds.”
So did Bowman make the right decision in selecting Gonzaga – both for school and hoops?
“Yes,” Bowman says emphatically and as quickly as she peels open for a shot. “Everyone has doubts about their college decisions, but my experience at Gonzaga has continued to confirm my decision to attend this school. This experience has been more than I had hoped for.”
For now, Bowman looks forward to see how her Zags will come together this season and is anxious to see the Zags’ hard work pay off. To date, her most memorable moment at Gonzaga has been earning a trip to the NCAA Tournament as a freshman, the first for the Lady Zags and a feat she hopes to repeat this year and again as a senior. Gonzaga was one game away from its second NCAA appearance last season, but was tripped in the WCC Championship game by San Diego.
The Zags instead earned a bid to the WNIT.
As for life after college and basketball, Bowman says she would love to finally venture away from her hometown – if only for a while.
“Living in Spokane has been really convenient for college, but after I graduate I would love to go play basketball overseas,” Bowman says. “Who wouldn’t want to get paid to play basketball and go see the world?”
One thing is certain about Bowman: She will continue supporting the Gonzaga community and its athletic programs no matter where life takes her.