Friday, November 13, 2009

Fourth Time's the Charm

This one won Best Sports Feature in the 2005 ONPA contest.

Published Jan. 7, 2005, in the Keizertimes

McNary High School senior Dusty Bowers knows a thing or two about perseverance.

Two things, actually. First, it takes hard work. Second, it pays off.

Bowers was cut from the basketball team as a freshman, sophomore and junior, but after taking time to hone his skills in the off season and over the summer, he finally landed a spot on the team.

"He really stepped up his game to earn his spot on the team. He works hard every practice and without question," said Jim Litchfield, boys varsity basketball coach. "There are others who match his intensity, but they haven't been through what he has."

Bowers doesn't let his success go to his head though, because he possesses another trait that keeps him planted firmly on the ground while reaching for the basket - perspective.

"It meant a lot to make the team this year, but I wasn't crushed when I didn't make in the past because I always knew that there were more important things," said Bowers.

Bowers idolized the Pacers' Reggie Miller when he was younger, and that was part his reason for wanting so much to play.

"I just loved the way he shot 3-pointers and wanted to do that too," said Bowers.

He and best friend Kevin Butler tried out for the team as freshmen at McNary, but didn't make the cut.

The following year, Butler died as the result of complications from a seizure.

"It was tough because the doctor kept telling us different things," he said.

Bowers missed school for a week, awaiting news as his friend was ill.

"It was tough, but I feel like I'm doing this for both of us now. I still think of him every time I shoot a free throw," he said.

Bowers always knew he was close to making the team, but he said that finally seeing his name on the varsity list felt good.

"I kept track of the numbers each year so I knew I was on the edge," he said.

At 5-foot-8, Bowers is second-shortest player on a tall Celtic varsity team, but that doesn't bother him.

"I've accepted my role on the team. I don't get a lot of time, but when I do my goal is just to make the entire team better," he said. "My size just means I have to play more physical than the other guys."

His diligence has not gone unnoticed by Litchfield.

"Dusty is one of the few players I never have to tell to pick up the pace. He goes full-steam every time out," said Litchfield. "He is always trying to improve his game and he's made himself into a better athlete through sheer force of will."

When not playing with the Celts, Bowers can be found on the links with a set of clubs or playing video games. Halo 2 and Tiger Woods Golf 2005 are personal favorites.

He's also a custodian at his church, Salem Evangelical, where he occasionally can be found taking advantage of a completely empty gym. His faith has a role in his goals for the future.

"I want to go to school locally and become a youth pastor," said Bowers.

Salem Evangelical youth pastor Rev. Jeremy Green said that Bowers' openness make's him an ideal candidate for becoming a youth pastor.

"He has an amazing ability to make everyone around him comfortable and that is exactly what you need to be able to do," said Green.

Green said that he was always impressed with Bowers' skills on the court, but knew he faced a lot of competition at McNary.

"I was skeptical when Dusty told me that he was trying out again," said Green. "But when he came back and told me he'd made it, I was thrilled.

"It speaks a lot about his intense character. Dusty has a heart of gold and a ton of friends, but he's also competitive."

Despite his smaller stature among the Celtics, Bowers is hard to overlook.

"We don't see a lot of students who are willing to take second, third and even fourth chances at rejection. Dusty did it and he's earned every minute he's had on the court."

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