Ira Bowman, the 1996 Ivy League Player of the Year, scored his first two NBA points in Tuesday's win over Dallas. Forty minutes after the final buzzer sounds in the 76ers' 106-87 win over Dallas on Tuesday, the stands at the First Union Center are empty, save for a few soda cups and stray programs. Only the bravest of autograph seekers and would-be photographers huddle behind the fence outside the arena exit, hoping to catch a glimpse of Dennis Rodman or snap a photo of Toni Kukoc. Inside the Sixers locker room, Ira Bowman -- fresh from his third NBA post-game shower -- is getting dressed in front of Theo Ratliff's locker. Bowman's actual locker is adjacent to that of 76ers star Allen Iverson. And Iverson, who has just hit 15-of-18 from the floor, is holding court in front of almost three-dozen members of the media. But if Bowman minds that his locker is obstructed by the crowd -- or that Iverson had taken advantage of his relatively sparse locker to temporarily rest a pile of diamond-encrusted platinum jewelry while the newest Sixer was in the shower -- he doesn't show it. That's because with just over a minute remaining against the Mavericks, Bowman, a former Penn star, scored his first NBA basket. Last Thursday, Bowman signed a 10-day contract with the 76ers, becoming the third member of the Quakers' 1994-95 Ivy championship team to reach the NBA. "I was obviously really excited," Bowman said, reflecting on last week's good news. "It's something I've been working towards. I was happy the moment finally came." February was an auspicious month for Bowman. Three weeks ago, he was just an average sports fan, flipping through Sports Illustrated. Turning past the cover story, he opened to a feature on the CBA, where he discovered a picture of himself staring back from the page. "It was really surprising -- I was actually just looking at the Super Bowl wrap-up and turned the page and saw myself," Bowman said. The photo came from the CBA all-star game, where the then-Connecticut Pride guard helped secure a win for the East by posting downright Stockton-esque numbers -- 12 assists in just 21 minutes. On February 20, Bowman was in Sioux Falls, S.D., hitting 8-of-9 from the floor in a losing effort against the Skyforce. Three days later, he was back in Connecticut, dishing out eight assists in front of 2,417 fans at the Hartford Armory. The Pride dropped that game -- the second in a home-and-home series with Sioux Falls -- but Bowman hardly had time to ponder the losing streak. Two days later, the 26-year-old guard was in Milwaukee wearing No. 11 for the Sixers. In a 97-83 win over the Bucks, Bowman saw two minutes of action and did what he does best -- the Quakers' career picks-per-game leader notched a steal. "He's a great defender and he's real unselfish. He comes from a good program. He respects the game a lot," said Sixers coach Larry Brown, a self-proclaimed Penn fan. "We lost Bruce Bowen and we wanted a defensive kid, unselfish, to replace him. So that's why we picked [Ira] up." Bowman, who was averaging 12.4 points and 5.3 assists per game with the Pride, first caught Brown's attention when the current Philadelphia coach was the Indiana head man. Bowman saw action in six preseason Pacers games before being cut prior to the 1996-97 season. "I had him try out in Indiana, and I've always admired him," Brown said. "He's gotten better every year." For Bowman, the call-up to the NBA marks the end of a four-year climb. After playing his last game as a Quaker in a one-game playoff with Princeton for the Ivy title on March 9, 1996 -- he hit a late three to force overtime -- Bowman has plugged away at his dream of reaching the NBA. A veteran of several NBA training camps, Bowman first played professionally in Australia in '96 and became a mainstay with the CBA's Pride later that season. He has also played in the USBL. "I was sure [I would make the NBA eventually]," said Bowman, who is quick to give credit to his Penn experience for pointing him in the right direction. According to Bowman, transferring to Penn from Providence after the 1992-93 season was "the best decision I've made in my life." Bowman visited Penn practice twice this week, and on Tuesday Quakers coach Fran Dunphy took in the Sixers' shootaround at the First Union Center. "I met some quality people at Penn, friends who I'll have for a lifetime, and I was able to work with a great coaching staff," said Bowman, the '95-96 Ivy League Player of the Year. "People act surprised that the '95 team had three guys play in the NBA, with me being the last one, but I think it just says wonders for the coaching staff at Penn -- Fran Dunphy, Gil Jackson and my boy Stevie Donahue. It puts Penn on the map." Although the first of the three players from that squad to reach the NBA, Jerome Allen, is currently playing in Turkey, Bowman will be reunited with former Quakers teammate and current Chicago Bull Matt Maloney when the Sixers visit the United Center on Saturday. From the Hartford Armory to the United Center in little over a week. Needless to say, it has not taken Bowman long to notice the disparity between the CBA and the NBA. "It's a big difference in the caliber of play. People here are gifted at every position," Bowman said. "[In the CBA] we had bus rides, we used to fly commercial. That's the biggest difference." But that doesn't mean Bowman didn't enjoy his days as a star with the Pride. "Obviously, [in the CBA] we didn't get the same caliber crowds as here [in the NBA] but I mean, we played in some towns that were pretty basketball-crazy," Bowman said. "On a weekend game in the CBA, you get a pretty good crowd. It's not like the Palestra, but it'll do." If Bowman was nervous in his first game as a Sixer at home, he didn't show it in taking a feed from Aaron McKie and knocking down a 12-foot jumper for his first NBA points in the waning minutes against Dallas. "If you get an open shot at this level, most people expect you to make it," Bowman said. "Of course you have the butterflies at every level. Even at Penn, before every game I felt it a little. But once you get out there, I mean, basketball is basketball -- you're going to do what you've been doing for the longest time." For now, Bowman plans to just take it "a day at a time and see what happens." Brown couldn't predict what lies in Bowman's future when the contract runs out, saying that they would take it 10 days at a time. "All of us who know Ira and appreciate what he's about were extremely happy for his opportunity with the 76ers," Dunphy said. "He's worked very hard, paid a lot of dues and to see that pay off with an NBA chance is just great for him -- much deserved."Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.