To hear the coach tell the story, Chris Bowen was nicknamed "Bubba" by a former teammate. Something about Bowen lifting weights.
But to hear Bowen tell it . . . well, you wouldn't.
Chances are he would shrug, look away and say something barely audible. This type of response from a guy named Bubba? Guys named Bubba walk where they want, eat what they want and say what they want. But Bowen, a 6-foot 2-inch, 195-pound senior center on the Western High School basketball team, does not want to say much of anything.
"Chris has never been a verbal leader," Western Coach Greg Hoffman said. "When I made him team captain last year, I took him aside and told him he needed to be more verbal. But he's not like that. This year I finally gave up."
Even if his speaking qualities don't get him noticed in a crowded room, his basketball skills get him noticed in a crowded gym.
Bowen is averaging 20.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. His shooting percentage is 51%, which is good--but not as good as his three-point percentage of 54%. Not bad for a player who has played three positions in three years. He started his sophomore season as a forward, moved to point guard last year and now is the center.
In the Orange League opener against Valencia, Bowen scored 28 points to lead Western to a 63-60 victory. But it was the way he scored the 28 that confounded Valencia. He scored 12 on three-pointers.
Valencia Coach Ray Rodriguez explained his team's problems with Bowen this way: "We put an inside player on him and he took him outside. Then we put an outside player on him and he took the ball inside. He's a very intelligent player."
Indeed, intelligence is one of his assets.
"My strength is mental," Bowen said. "So if I'm tired, hurt or sick, I know I have to overcome it because I have to play 32 minutes."
Hoffman agrees. "He's probably the most intelligent player I've coached. He'll carry us on offense and play the best defense on the team for 32 minutes."
Not that Bowen is perfect.
"I have to sometimes nicely remind him that he has to rebound or it won't get done," Hoffman said.
"I like the outside, but I know I have to rebound," Bowen said.
It's unlikely that Bowen will have to worry much about rebounding after this season. He is being recruited by several community colleges, including Cypress and Fullerton, as a guard, although he hasn't drawn any attention from Division I or II colleges.
"There is no doubt in my mind that he is the best secret in Orange County," Hoffman said.
But Bowen is no secret to his opponents.
"He's played well in league. He's played aggressively," Magnolia Coach Al Walin said.
"At 6-2, he can go outside and shoot the three-pointer, he can drive, he can go to the boards, he plays good man defense and he can jump very well," Rodriguez said.
"He may have to work on his ballhandling skills, but he would be a very good (community college) guard and maybe Division II."