JAY Bowie couldn’t have enjoyed his three years at the Willetton Tigers more but memories of that 2015 season at the Goldfields Giants was something he always wanted to try and replicate as the Tampa-native chases that elusive SBL championship.
Bowie wasn’t quite sure what he got himself into when he arrived in Kalgoorlie for the 2015 season on the back of his college career at Marist University in Poughkeepsie, New York, and then beginning his professional career in the G-League for the Delaware 87ers.
Then he got to Kalgoorlie to play with the Giants and they lost the first eight games of the season and his time in the SBL could have come to an end before it really got started.
Then all of a sudden, boom, on the back of Bowie and fellow import Jacob Holmen and Mathiang Muo with an impressive supporting cast, the Giants got on a remarkable run which saw them not only qualify for the finals, but then knock off the Geraldton Buccaneers in the quarter finals.
While it was a remarkable run that ended against the South West Slammers, it got the whole city of Kalgoorlie up and about.
However, the Giants haven’t reached the playoffs since and Bowie has spent the past three seasons with the Willetton Tigers where he went ever so close again with two semi-final appearances and then reaching the quarter finals in 2018.
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Having now been part of a team that had claims to be a championship contender in all four of his previous seasons in the SBL with 2015 at the Giants and the last three years with the Tigers, Bowie feels to have that ultimate success you need more than just a want for it to happen.
What Bowie knows is that it’s action that speak louder than words so to win a championship, you need to do all the things that championship teams do.
Bowie hopes that happens with this Giants team because when you look at their pieces with Bowie, Patrick Burke, Dave Humphries and Mayo Malek joining leaders like Jerome Reid, Brandon Holloway and Daniel Forlano, it’s a group that does have enough talent and depth.
“Now I know it’s not so much about wanting to do it, it’s about what you actually do that matters. That means coming in and getting in those extra shots, staying focused all practice and going hard all the time,” Bowie said.
“You have to do all those little things during the game and building on that every day, and every week during the season so that when you get to the playoffs, those mistakes from early in the season are ironed out.
“All those chemistry issues are gone and that’s top notch, that’s what you need to be successful. There’s a big difference between just wanting success and then doing everything you can to make it happen.”
But it was the memories of that stunning second half of 2015 that meant that Bowie always wanted to come back to the Giants at some point and there was no better time than 2019.
“I’ve always kept in good touch with some of the guys on the team and obviously it was a special year that season I was here,” Bowie said.
“I’ve always wanted to try and experience that again with these group of guys because it’s a hard working group in a hard working town. I enjoyed it a lot in my first time around here so I always wanted to come back and give it another try.
“And now our chemistry is getting better all the time and it’s a hard working group of guys. We all enjoy playing with each other and hanging around each other so we feel like we are getting better and better as a group every day.”
Looking back on that remarkable 2015 season where Goldfields won 14 of the last 18 games to finish the regular season in seventh position, Bowie just felt it was all about the chemistry of the group building because the talent was always there.
“It was weird that year because we knew we had the talent to win, but we just didn’t have the chemistry early in the year,” he said.
“But being here every single day, you just gain trust between teammates and you become closer as teammates, and once we got that chemistry we were able to go on a crazy run.
“We always had the talent that year, we just had to actually do it and it was a lot of fun to be part of even if we did end up losing in the semi finals.”
Bowie spent the past three years and enjoyed his time playing under coach Stephen Black and by creating an especially strong bond with Kyle Armour and Damien Scott in the backcourt.
While they just fell short of their ultimate goal, Bowie will never have anything but positive things to say about those three seasons.
“They were good years at Willetton, I really enjoyed my time there. I feel like I got a lot better as a player there and I feel like one of my best years playing basketball was my first year playing at Willetton,” Bowie said.
“I learned a lot from Steve Black, he’s one of the greatest minds in the league, and I loved playing with Kyle and Scotty and those guys. You couldn’t help but get better every day in an environment like that.
“It’s similar to what it’s like here, me, Kyle and Scotty enjoyed hanging out with each other and enjoyed playing on the court together.
“It wasn’t like we were going to pass Jay or Kyle the ball a million times, we focused on wanting to work off each other and whoever was playing well could get a bit more of the ball on that night. But we focused on just trying to play together and doing what we needed to do to get the wins.”
Coming back to living in Kalgoorlie again following the three years in Perth, has taken some adjusting for Bowie again as well but not as much as you’d think.
He’s a bit of a homebody so that means things don’t change too much wherever he lives, but he does like things in Kalgoorlie and he embraces what a significant part of the town the Giants are.
Bowie now especially appreciates the support of the Kalgoorlie community both during the weekend and on game nights where they are the major sporting club in town compared to in Perth where SBL clubs get lost in the shuffle.
“It’s certainly different living here obviously. Instead of grass, you have the dirt but I’m kind of a lowkey guy and like to do my own thing so the lifestyle isn’t really too different because I tend to keep to myself a lot and don’t go out too much anyway wherever I’m living,” Bowie said.
“We know that we are a big part of Kalgoorlie, but everyone on this team is really grounded as well so none of us have a big head or take advantage of that. We know what we have to do to be good, and we know that we need to come in every day and work hard.
“It’s weird in Perth because you 10 or 11 teams in the city area all trying to share the same fans and then you have Wildcats, AFL teams and all sorts of other things to compete with. But here it’s really just us and when we are playing well, we have a standing room only crowd.
“I remember back in 2015 for the last couple of games of the season, if you dove for a loose ball on the sidelines you were running into five people who were all trying to find somewhere to watch the game. Once you start winning here in Kalgoorlie, it’s really special.”
Bowie is now in his fifth year playing basketball in the SBL so that says it all about how much he is both enjoying playing here and the lifestyle off the court.
He sees no reason why he can’t keep coming back either for the rest of his career, but he’s not sure what his future holds beyond his playing days just yet.
“I wouldn’t keep coming back if I didn’t like it here, but it reminds me of Tampa because it’s sunny all the time and it doesn’t get too cold so the weather is pretty similar to what I’m used to,” he said.
“The people are incredibly friendly here and I really do like it out here. I can see myself keeping on coming back too, I mean this is already my fifth year. So as long as my body stays upright I can’t see why I won’t be back again for at least another year and maybe longer.
“In terms of after I stop playing, that’s a questions for a 35-year-old me and it’s not something I’ve thought about. I do love Tampa, I will say that, but I love it out here as well so it will be a tough decision.”
Before he arrived in Kalgoorlie for that initial 2015 season, Bowie was told all the usual things to be scared of in Australia and as a result he was a little bit hesitant about jumping on the plane.
It’s fair to say the reality has turned out significantly different though.
“Every American will talk about Australia being full spiders and snakes, and the sharks killing people so they tell you to never go outdoors. I’ve still never seen a snake in five years and I only saw my first huntsman spider earlier this year and it scared me to death,” he said.
“Other than that, I haven’t seen any crazy animals or anything even though one time in Perth we went to the beach and the surf competition was cancelled because of sharks.
“So I don’t get in the water. Other than that, I didn’t realise how friendly everyone was here and how laidback it is here so that’s what I really like about it the most.”
Bowie’s mother has been out to visit him in Western Australia twice already over the past four years. She has enjoyed her time so much she even tried to get invited to come live with her son, but he quickly knocked that on its head.
“My mum did come out in my first year in 2015 in Kalgoorlie and she came last year when I was down in Perth. She’s come out twice and has loved it,” Bowie said.
“My brother came out as well in my first and he liked it. Mum talked about how much she would love to move to Perth with me but I told her she had to go back home. But that just shows how much she likes it here.”