How Good Is A $100,000 Basketball Player, Anyway? A Brian Bowen Investigation

How Good Is A $100,000 Basketball Player, Anyway? A Brian Bowen Investigation


How Good Is A $100,000 Basketball Player, Anyway? A Brian Bowen Investigation


If you’ve been following the college basketball corruption investigation that is now playing out a trial, you have read time and time again about Brian Bowen, the player at the center of all this, who received a $100,000 offer to go to Louisville, according to testimony.

Before this scandal broke, every college basketball fan knew players received black-market payments for their services, but it was the FBI investigation that showed just what sort of salary a player like Brian Bowen could command.

But what, exactly, is a player “like Brian Bowen” … like?

I decided to take this investigation into my own hands. Beginning, obviously, with Rivals lists Brian Bowen at 6-foot-7, 195 pounds. He’s a five-star prospect, ranked 21st overall in the class of 2017.

If you compare him to small forwards from other classes, this makes him a prospect on the level of Dwayne Bacon (No. 22, 2015), Devin Robinson (No. 20, 2014), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (No. 21, 2013) and Winston Shepard (No. 21, 2012).

Bowen came off the bench in the 2017 McDonald’s All-America game, going 1-for-6 in 14 minutes in a game led by Michael Porter and Mo Bamba.

Of course, Rivals is measuring these players as high schoolers, not trying to project what they’ll be as adults. That’s what DraftExpress is for.

Bowen projects as an instant impact scorer at the NCAA level, depending where he ends up. He’ll have to continue to improve his ball skills, frame, and overall shot creation versus higher level defenders, but Bowen proved he’ll eventually have a shot at the NBA as a scoring wing after gaining more experience and developing physically at the college level.

DraftExpress liked Bowen’s ability to score without dominating the ball and thought he could play the 4 in a small-ball situation, but didn’t care for his “awkward” body and limited shot-creation ability.

Bowen never played for Louisville, of course. He was suspended last fall and after declaring for, and pulling out of, the 2018 NBA Draft, Bowen signed with the Sidney Kings of the Australian NBL. Last year, that team’s top two scorers were Jerome Randle and Perry Ellis.  Andrew Bogut joined the team this year.

Bowen has had a solid preseason for the Kings, with a handful of games in double figures to go with some strong rebounding numbers.

So if Bowen is a good example, then it seems that for about $100,000  — (For the record, Rick Pitino said Bowen wasn’t worth $200,000) — you can get a guy who could play a key (but not necessarily starring) role for a top-level college basketball team.

But we’re still talking about an artificially suppressed market. Not everybody interested in Brian Bowen was interested in breaking NCAA rules or federal laws to get him, so we can’t truly know the market value for a player like Bowen until everything is out in the open.

What it does show, though, if we can make some back-of-napkin calculations here, is that if these prices are in the range of what’s real, then you could have a really dang good college basketball team for less than a $1 million per year, and that sounds like a bargain.

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