The nation's leading Division i returning career scorer is called "The American Express." Boo Bowers' nickname, however, is more representative of the entire Eagle team. This club can't afford to leave home, much less campus, without its running game in highest gear.
We have to run," Bowers said after a recent practice, "because we don't have the size inside."
That capsulizes the makeup of the East Coast Conference team. If this were an NBA club, Coach Gary Williams would be trying to trade a couple of his quick, sharp jump shooters for an intimidating rebounder. If Kermit Washington, AU's last all-America, were still around Ward Circle, this team would be a strong contender for postseason play.
Its depth is shown by recent Blue-White scrimmages. The Whites are the starters. It took them four game-condition scrimmages to come out victorious. Either American has lots of depth or Williams is a bad judge of talent. The former is correct.
Consider: sophomore Gordon Austin, a Blue, is pushing returning point guard Robin Hoey hard. Transfers Mark Nickens and Ferdi Aunon, both Blues and the latter ineligible the first six games, are smooth, shooting 6-foot-5 forwards whose ability will enable the 6-5 Bowers to play some at second guard, his likely pro position.
Above all, Williams wants his players going all out, not pacing themselves: The American Express.
"Last season (13-14) we were a good team when we were shooting it," Williams said, "but we weren't strong enough to hold other teams down when we got into a cold streak."
To accomplish this, Williams concentrated primarily on defense the first three weeks of practice and demanded all-out hustle at both ends of the court. When a player gets tired, there are replacements ready to give him a rest.
But the Eagles still have to get defensive rebounds in order to run, and that has been their major shortcoming so far against that Blue team, whose players include 6-7 Andre Adams, an Anacostia High School product who is sitting out this year after transferring from Ohio University. Both centers from a year ago were graduated, leaving sophomore Ray McCarthy, a gangly 6-8, 200-pounder, and 6-6 senior forward Dennis Ross as the tallest starters.
In the preseason, the Whites have succeeded against the Blues only when running and pressing. Juan Jones, a 6-7 junior college transfer who played locally at McKinley Tech, had been hampered by an ankle injury, but now apparently has beaten out McCarthy as the starting center. A leg injury has hampered has 6-5 Dave Ridley, another transfer with the same talents as Nickens and Aunon.
As for Bowers, Williams says: "I really don't see how he can improve much over last year. The consistency he showed last year was the big thing. Nobody shut him down when we needed his points. That's all you can ask for. I see him handling the ball more. He'll play some at second guard; it'll make us better against zones since Nickens and Ed Sloane are better (as) corner shooters."
The American Express also is an apt nickname for this team. Since the floor at its Fort Myer gymnasium is being reconditioned, the Eagles don't play a home game until Jan. 13.
Strengths: Bowers, also known to teammates as Mr. O, as in offense; depth, but only at small forward and in the back court; better defensive team this season with Nickens and Sloane; better cohesiveness and attitude than in Williams' first two seasons.
Weaknesses: Rebounding, need improvement in foul shooting; Eagles shot 68 percent last season and missed front end of one and ones in final minutes of five games the Eagles lost by two points or less.
Assessment: This team, despite no home games until mid-January, could win 16 to 20 games with a few breaks.