COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina coach Frank Martin doesn’t see adding Brian Bowen Jr. as a risk, only as an opportunity to give the Louisville transfer a new chance to play in college.
“I don’t judge people for their successes or their mistakes, that’s not who I am,” Martin said Thursday. “I’m into teaching, I’m into educating. I’m into helping people.”
That’s a big reason why, Martin said, Bowen and his family settled on South Carolina for the 6-foot-7, highly regarded forward’s next basketball chapter.
Bowen was held out of practices and games after Louisville announced it was being investigated as part of a federal corruption probe of bribery in college basketball that led to the firing of coach Rick Pitino.
Ten people, including four assistant coaches and Adidas executive James Gatto, were initially charged in the investigation. One of the coaches was Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans, who was a member of Martin’s South Carolina staff from 2012 to 2016.
Bowen was suspended by Louisville after news of an alleged payment involving the Cardinals and his father to get him to attend that school. The federal complaint stated that Gatto and others attempted to funnel $100,000 to a recruit’s family to gain his commitment to play for Louisville. Bowen was not named in documents, but details made clear that investigators were referring to the freshman.
Bowen sat out this semester. He enrolled at South Carolina on Monday, is on scholarship and will practice with the team once he gets his bearings on campus, Martin said.
South Carolina will have to petition the NCAA for Bowen’s reinstatement. He would miss the next two semesters as a transfer before he could return to the court.
Martin got approval from the university president, the board of trustees and the athletic director before going forward with Bowen.
“I trust the people I work for,” the coach said. “They would not have signed up for something that was going to bring negative” to the school.
Martin said Bowen and his family were moved by the university’s willingness to bring him in despite the awful time since the college corruption scandal broke in late September.
“When we had the conversation that we had admitted him and our leadership was going to stand up and fight for reinstatement, that kid almost started crying,” Martin recalled.
Martin did not have a previous relationship with Bowen, the prize recruit from La Porte, Indiana. Bowen and his family were familiar with Gamecocks assistant Chuck Martin, in his first year at South Carolina after the previous three years as assistant for the Indiana Hoosiers.
The process started about mid-December and did not take long to complete, Frank Martin said.
Martin has read the federal indictment more than once and has no worries that Bowen remains part of the probe.
“The way it’s expressed to me is that the young man has been cleared by the FBI,” Martin said. “If we thought in any way that that young man was still being investigated by the FBI, we probably don’t do this.”
While Bowen has not practiced yet, Martin said his addition has brought a jolt of energy to the program that advanced to the Final Four a year ago. Bowen will add to the competitiveness during workouts, giving the Gamecocks a five-star talent to learn with.
Bowen is excited as well, Martin said. He’s glad to be part of a team and have a purpose after essentially being in Louisville limbo with his suspension.
“We’ve all got a chapter in our life we’re not comfortable with,” Martin said. “The best part about life is you can go on to the next chapter and start anew. He just wants to be a college kid. He just wants to enjoy it. He wants to be a teammate. That’s all he’s ever done. I’m excited for him.”