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Opponents Find Fowler Has Great Heart

December 21, 1989|GARY KLEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The physical proceeded just like so many others the athlete had faced.

Gary Fowler of Glendale College sailed through the weigh-in, height measurement, eye-and-ear check and other staples of the examination, a preseason ritual for all participants in high school and intercollegiate sports.

But when the doctor pressed his stethoscope to Fowler's chest and back, things became a little more complex.

Fowler's heartbeat sounded irregular, the doctor said, and he suggested that Fowler's personal physician perform further tests before the athlete resumed basketball practice.

The diagnosis and weeklong battery of examinations that followed made the 19-year-old Fowler's heart race.

"I was scared," Fowler recalled. "I didn't do any physical activity. I wasn't participating in anything.

"I don't think I even jumped too fast to turn the channel on the TV."

When the tests--including a strenuous bout on a treadmill--were completed, Fowler was declared fit to play. And since returning to the Vaquero lineup, the 6-foot-5 sophomore hasn't missed a beat.

Fowler is averaging 15 points and eight rebounds for a veteran Glendale team that is 10-5 and coming off a championship performance in last week's Glendale tournament.

Fowler, a co-captain and returning All-Western State Conference forward from Muir High in Pasadena, is the Vaqueros' best defensive player.

"Without him," said Brian Beauchemin, the Glendale coach, "we're missing a physical presence."

Then again, Fowler is probably the Vaqueros' only physical presence. At 6-6, Justin Lord is the team's tallest starter. Fowler, however, patrols the area around the basket for the Vaqueros and usually draws the opposition's best frontcourt player, regardless of the size mismatch.

He was selected to the all-tournament team mostly for the way he handled 6-6 forward Terry Nelson of Harbor in the semifinals and 6-10 center Eric Pauley and 6-9 forward Andre Lamoureaux of Cypress in the championship.

"There have been games where Gary is absolutely beat up," Beauchemin said. "But his expression never changes.

"Other guys get excited by errant elbows and the kinds of things that happen under the basket where you're playing against guys who play like offensive lineman."

Fowler contends that there is no reason to lose control. His philosophy is simple: Why get mad when you know you're going to get even?

"If someone does something really dirty, I'll always get him back during the course of the game," Fowler said. "I tell him. I'll whisper in his ear. Simple as that.

"I'm not going to punch them or anything. But just let them know to watch for it because it's coming."

Fowler came to Glendale last season after playing only one season of varsity basketball at Muir, where he averaged 16 points a game his senior year.

He enrolled at Glendale and got an immediate break when several of the Vaqueros' returning players left the team to get jobs or enlist in the military.

Like fellow freshmen Bruce Heicke, David Swanson, Vigen Serop and Lord, Fowler took full advantage of the opportunity.

He averaged 14.1 points and a team-high 7.7 rebounds a game for a Glendale team that finished 20-12 overall and 10-5 in the WSC. The Vaqueros advanced to the state playoffs, defeating Golden West in the first round before falling to El Camino.

Fowler credits Beauchemin for helping him make a successful jump to the junior college level.

"Most athletes are intimidated to talk to their coaches, but you can't be with Brian," Fowler said. "He's easy to talk to. You can go into his office and just have a rap session."

If there was a rap against Fowler coming into this season, it was that his outside shot needed work. Despite averaging in double figures, it was not uncommon to see Fowler clank a frozen rope off the rim from beyond 10 feet.

"In high school, I shot a lot from the outside, but when I got here I kind of lost my confidence from that range," Fowler said. "Everything was 'inside, inside.'

"I worked on it over the summer and now I'm just starting to feel comfortable again."

That's bad news for WSC opponents who will try to keep Fowler and his teammates from a shot at the conference championship--something the Vaqueros have not won since l985.

"I think we'll surprise a lot of people if we play like we did these past few games in the tournament," Fowler said. "I think we can win it all."

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