EDINBURG — Greg Bowie said he received offers from schools in Conference USA and the Atlantic 10 during his recruiting process, but he decided to head to UTRGV.
Throughout his career, Bowie has liked to run and play at a high tempo, and UTRGV gave him the opportunity to do just that.
“The level of play, the opportunity to play, and the way we play. It was not a big adjustment to going slow,” Bowie said. “We’re just playing fast all the time. That was an easy adjustment. I just love the family we have. It’s pretty good.”
Bowie’s experience pressing and getting up and down the floor on offense was part of what grabbed UTRGV coach Lew Hill’s interest. In his second year at the helm of the Vaqueros, Hill is doubling down on his commitment to build a roster that can play fast and attack for a full 40 minutes.
His returning players have already done it for a year, and freshman guard signees Bowie and Javon Levi come to Edinburg knowing how to push the pace. As a result, Hill’s standards and expectations were at an all-time high as UTRGV opened practice Monday at the school’s on-campus recreation center.
“We’re going to get in better conditioning than we were last year. I’m holding them more accountable this year,” UTRGV coach Lew Hill said. “I’ve turned it up, so they have to turn up with me.”
Bowie and Levi seem ready to answer the call, with Hill saying both showed well in their first workout with the full team.
Levi, who played at Kileen Shoemaker, said the biggest difference from a high school practice is the speed at which the team moves through drills. On offense, he has to adjust to an approach that relies more on constant movement and less on half-court sets. But on the defensive end, he said he already feels at home.
“That’s what translates from high school to here — the defense. We played pressure defense in high school, so I’m already used to that,” Levi said. “I already know where to be defensively, because the same sets we’re running here are the same sets we ran in high school, so my mind is already conditioned for that.”
Hill’s mantra at UTRGV has always been “attack with discipline.” Bowie said he was used to the attacking, but the discipline part is more of an adjustment.
A combo guard who played at Athlos Leadership Academy in San Antonio, Bowie said he performed well from a conditioning standpoint, even as he battles a foot injury. Hill called Bowie a “natural scorer.”
Levi, described by Hill as more of a true point guard, said he felt like he held his own on the first day of practice. He said his best attributes are his defense and toughness.
“His high school team played this way. They pressed, and trapped, and he picked up the ball, so he has a familiarity with how to play,” Hill said. “It’s a different pace, but he has some idea of how to play this way.”
Bowie said Levi is already “like my brother.” The two are roommates and have pushed each other mentally and physically, be it in practice or open gyms.
Both acknowledge that they are competing for playing time in the guard rotation this year, but the greater focus is on working together in hopes of pushing UTRGV forward for years to come.
“We’re going to be here for four years together,” Levi said. “So we’re looking at building that great chemistry so that by the time we get up to maybe next year or junior year, we’re really going to have this team going.”
Hill said he expects Bowie and Levi to both get minutes this year, though a precise role is impossible to define on Day 1 of practice. Both players know that the transfer of Antonio Green, who averaged 14.6 points and 30.4 minutes per game last year as a sophomore, opens up the opportunity for more playing time.
Bowie said Green’s move came as a “big surprise,” adding that Green was one of the major reasons he chose UTRGV. He admired Green’s aggressive shooting and relentless work ethic, but he also knows that Green’s absence gives him a greater chance to contribute.
Levi said the departure of one of the Vaqueros’ most potent and creative scorers puts more importance on his ability to facilitate open looks for his teammates. As far as playing time is concerned, Levi knows his role will still have to be earned during the preseason.
“Maybe it’s easier, but obviously I was going to have to work for it regardless,” Levi said. “So it’s going to come down to what I earn and what I do.”