Profiles: Freshman McGowan embraces unlikely starting role

Wyeth Wilson, Staff Writer

A freshman starting, or even playing, on a high school varsity basketball team is rare. Especially if the coach of that team is Bearden coach Mark Blevins.

Despite being only a year removed from playing middle school basketball, Bearden freshman point guard Dakota McGowan has made a name for himself around the Bearden basketball program.

“I don’t think we have ever started a freshman from the first game,” Coach Blevins said. “We may have started a freshman by December, but not from the first game.”

Bearden being short-handed coming into the season contributed to McGowan being able to play in large amounts. Bearden has only eight upperclassmen, which allowed for sophomores and freshmen to be able to move into the rotation.

“It’s been a huge privilege [to start as a freshman],” McGowan said. “Compared to middle school basketball, it’s a huge difference.”

McGowan and Bearden (20-1, 7-1 District 4-AAA) will return to district play Friday night in a rivalry game at West (11-7, 5-3). The Bulldogs beat West 61-43 at home on Dec. 4.

Though McGowan has had to make the transition from middle school to high school basketball faster than most, the shift has been smooth for the most part.

“In middle school, yeah, a coach would get onto you sometimes for making a mistake here and there, but here, you shouldn’t make mistakes,” McGowan said. “If you’re in high school, you should know the basics of basketball.

“Coach Blevins expects you to know what you’re doing.”

McGowan’s key contribution to the team comes on the defensive end of the floor, where he has had several key games this season.

“Dakota doesn’t score as much, but he really helps us out defensively,” senior Sam Phillips said. “He may be our best defender.”

Against Scott Co. earlier this season, Highlander guard Josh Butts had dominated the Bulldogs all game until McGowan came in and shut him down in the second half en route to a 78-59 Bearden win.

Junior guard Quez Fair has been a mentor to the freshman McGowan, and says that he pushes McGowan to become better every day.

“We definitely push him to score more, but he has good defense,” Fair said. “Dakota works the hardest of anyone on the team.”

Added McGowan: “Quez has shown me that even if you’re down in a game, don’t give up because you can always come back. Like during summer camp, we were down 14 points in a game, and he brought us back. He shows true leadership for the team.”

Though he may be one of the youngest players to ever start for the Bulldogs, Coach Blevins has full faith in his freshman point guard.

“Dakota has a lot of heart,” Coach Blevins said. “He’s got good speed, good quickness, but the heart is the main thing.”