Scandal-tainted Brian Bowen left with little choice but to stay in NBA draft

Brian Bowen II participates in the NBA draft basketball combine earlier this month in Chicago. (AP)

As the deadline to withdraw from the NBA draft approached, Brian Bowen found himself in a no-win situation.

He could either stay in the NBA draft even though it’s unlikely he’d be selected or he could return to South Carolina even though it’s unlikely the NCAA would ever clear him to play college basketball.

Bowen made his choice on Wednesday, opting to put college basketball in his rearview mirror and take his chances as a pro. The NCAA enabled Bowen to make a more informed decision by disclosing to the 6-foot-7 small forward that at minimum he would not be allowed to play during the 2018-19 season because of the alleged benefits his family received to entice him to sign with Louisville last summer.

“After receiving this information, [South Carolina] continued to work closely with Bowen and his attorney, Jason Setchen, over the course of the last few days to provide him with as much information as possible regarding the eligibility ruling so that he could make an informed decision on his NBA draft status,” the university said in a statement Wednesday. “After taking time to assess the information provided by the NCAA, Bowen has decided to remain in the 2018 NBA draft.”

Bowen, of course, was the recruit at the center of the recruiting scandal that got ex-Louisville coach Rick Pitino fired last year. The FBI alleged that an Adidas executive and the Louisville staff conspired to funnel $100,000 to Bowen’s family to play at Louisville and represent the shoe-apparel giant after he turns pro.

Louisville declared last year that Bowen would never practice with nor play for the Cardinals. The freshman subsequently transferred to South Carolina and petitioned for the right to play for the Gamecocks next season.

Failing to regain his college eligibility is a significant blow to Bowen’s hopes of ever reaching the NBA. He was a McDonald’s All-American and a consensus top-40 recruit in the 2018 class, but most scouts did not consider him a one-and-done caliber talent.

Instead of developing over the course of two or three years in college, Bowen will likely have to try to catch on with a G League team and prove himself in the NBA’s minor leagues.

It’s not an easy path, but considering the no-man’s land Bowen found himself in the past few months, it’s his best remaining option.

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Jeff Eisenberg is a college basketball writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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