All-America candidate Russell (Boo) Bowers, out seven weeks a severely sprained right knee, has shown marked improvement but still will be a spectator tonight at American University's 8 o'clock second-round East Coast Conference game against Drexel at Fort Myer.

In fact, Bowers said, he has delayed resuming practice for a week and will be available only for spot duty if if the Eagles advance to the NCAA tournament or the National Invitation Tournament. AU (22-4) is expected to get a bid to one of them.

bowers, a 6-foot-5 senior averaging 25.5 points and 7.0 rebounds a game at the time of his Jan. 14 injury, had been expected to practice Monday. But he decided to get further evaluation from his physician.

"We didn't have a timetable on Boo," AU Coach Gary Williams said. "I'd hate to play him if he was only 50 or 60 percent. I don't think he could help us at this time if he could only play at half speed.

"Right now the players who have been playing have done a good job. How much Boo could move would determine how much or when I would use him. Of course, if he can play it would be a plus."

"The knee is getting there," Bowers said. "There's no pain, but the doctor still wants me to take it easy on lateral movements. I haven't tried any hard lateral movements but I can run straight ahead all right. I've worked on my own, running, lifting weights and shooting. I'll probably dress for Saturday's game, if we are playing, and maybe it'll serve as a psychological edge for the fellows. They've been doing all right without me." p

An AU victory tonight would put the Eagles lin the ECC semifinals Friday at Philadelphia against the winner of the Bucknell-Rider game. The winner of Saturday's final gets an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. If it is AU, it would be the Eagles' first NCAA appearance in the school's 14 years in Division I.

Saturday's 70-62 win over Temple gave AU an unbeaten ECC record and 14 victories in 16 games without Bowers. Mark Nickens, a 6-5 former all-Met at Makin and transfer from TCU, was promoted from sixth man to a starter and played brilliantly. The sophomore is averaging 14.9 points and 5.3 rebounds and leads the team in steals with 58.

He scored a college-career high 33 points in the Eagles' dramatic 84-83 overtime defeat of St. Joseph's at the Palestra last week.