Entering the boys basketball season and with such key pieces graduated from last year’s squad, Za Stowes knew he was going to have to take on a bigger leadership role for Benjamin Russell.
So far, he’s done exactly that.
Although the Wildcats are off to a 1-3 start, Stowes has been one of the leading scorers in all four games and put up double-digit efforts multiple times. He is the Outlook Player of the Week.
“For what I’ve asked him for, he’s done a great job for what has to be done,” BRHS coach Jeremy Freeman said. “He’s done quite well so far and I’m pleased with his effort.”
Stowes was certainly the Wildcats’ bright spot in last Tuesday’s overtime win over Sylacauga. He ignited the crowd when he banked in a 3-pointer to send Benjamin Russell to the extra period after being down by as many as 13 points. Stowes came alive during the second-half surge for the Wildcats, pouring in 19 of his game-high 25 points in the final two quarters.
“I’ve been listening to Coach and attacked to the ball and got the shot,” Stowes said after the victory. “Thank God I made it. It felt really good. Going into overtime, it felt like we had more energy coming out.”
In addition to his 25 points, Stowes also led the defense with four steals, matched Gavin Edwards for a team-leading six rebounds and added a pair of assists.
Although what Benjamin Russell really needs is to find more consistent scoring from a variety of sources, the main focus under Freeman will always be a strong defense and Stowes has clearly bought into that.
“He’s a physical player and that football mentality carries over into basketball,” Freeman said. “His stature doesn’t allow him to be above the rim so he relies on his quickness and strength and other areas to impact the ballgame. He has strong hands and that makes it tough for other teams.”
In addition to his defensive prowess, Stowes has also been able to score in a variety of ways. Despite not being the tallest player on the court — he’s listed at just 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds — he’s managed to get to the rim and use his physicality to either fight for tough layups or draw fouls, and sometimes both.
“Once we learn that mentality as far as you do what they allow you to do, that’s what I’m looking for,” Freeman said. “If they’re giving you the layup or the mid-range jumper or a 3-pointer, then you have to allow yourself to do that. He does a pretty good job on shot selections.”
Due to Stowes being a multi-sport athlete, he’s used to pressure-packed moment. He was one of the leading receivers for the football team with 183 yards on 19 receptions and he’s also a top track and field athlete. So when the game was on the line against Sylacauga, it wasn’t a big surprise the ball found its way to Stowes’ hands.
“He wants that role and he accepts the challenge,” Freeman said. “He wants to make the plays so here again when the opportunity presents itself, he steps up. And that’s what I want from my seniors. I want them to allow themselves to be in the forefront and show that through their actions rather than their words.”
Although Stowes has gotten off to a strong start, Freeman said he will continue to expect more and wants Stowes to take on that leadership role both on and off the court.
“I’m just looking for him to continue to embrace the moment and to continue to grow inside the system and allow it to work for me,” Freeman said. “Most of all, I want him to show endurance throughout the whole game — just staying in it the whole game as far as mentally and physically. When you’re a senior, you have a chance to stand out and I’m really looking for him to mature inside of the game.”