I recently had the opportunity to interview one of my favorite former basketball players, Timmy Bowers. I could list all his accolades and accomplishments, but the only one that really matters is SEC CHAMPION. Plus, I always preferred his introduction by former PA announcer Hank Flick - "A 6-2 guard from Gulfport, Mississippi. Our captain. Our point guard. TIMMY BOWERS!"
Flying M: We all get to re-live a moment of glory every time the SEC Network replays the 2004 Alabama game where you hit the game-tying shot in regulation and game-winning shot in overtime, winning the outright SEC Title. Just talk about what that game meant to you.
TB: That Alabama game means a lot to me. Personally, I think it kind of sealed my legacy as a player. More importantly it was huge for the university to win an outright SEC regular season title for the first time in a while. It was a great game to be a part of because of the significance and what was on the line.
Flying M: You were right in the middle of one of my favorite memories at The Hump. Against ole miss in 2004, you got elbowed in the head, went down, and no foul was called. Then Stansbury stormed the court, got ejected, and gave Karl Hess the choke sign on his way to the locker room. What was that game like, and what did Stansbury say to you guys before leaving the court?
TB: I think I remember at the time I got hit in the head we were down or either the game was close. The refs clearly missed the call, and Stans went crazy on the court. When he got ejected, the team huddled and said "ok, if the refs are going to let us play, then Ole Miss can't beat us." From that moment on I think we came out and handled them pretty well.
Flying M: Excluding either of the two games previously mentioned, what was your fondest memory while you were at Mississippi State?
TB: I have so many memories during my time in StarkVegas. One of the things I remember most is not playing much my freshman season. That really molded me into the player that I became. I worked relentlessly on my game and body over that summer in order to gain playing time. I remember beating Kentucky my sophomore year. That same year we beat Alabama for the SEC Tourney Championship. Those are some things that stick out, but the things I cherish the most are the relationships, friendships and bonds that'll last a lifetime.
Flying M: Who was the one team, player, or coach you dreaded facing the most during your collegiate career? And who did you love to play against?
TB: I think the Georgia team my sophomore and junior seasons was a tough team to match up with for us. They had big guards who could score, Ezra Williams and Jarvis Hayes. Obviously, Florida with all of the pros they had on the team my sophomore year was tough. The team I loved playing was Alabama. Personally because originally I committed to play at 'Bama and Mo Williams and I kind of had this rivalry thing going on from high school. I always thought that rivalry between State and 'Bama was bigger than with Ole Miss.
Flying M: You've had a lengthy career in Europe, spending most of your time in Italy and Israel. What was the biggest challenge - on or off the court - in transitioning from collegiate American basketball to professional European basketball?
TB: My career in Europe has been great. I'm actually in Greece now. I spent my first 4 years in Israel after a year in the D-League. Israel is for me the best place a player can go if he has never been abroad. No language barrier, food is great, weather is beautiful, and always something to do. It's very similar to the States in a sense. After I left Israel, I moved to Italy for 5 years. It was a lot different, as in its more European. You'll find some people don't speak English. Food is different, but good after being there a while. As far as the basketball in these places, it's very different from the NBA. I like to think of it as more similar to the collegiate game. All of the games are intensely played and mean a lot. Fans are crazy and loud. If you've ever watched a European soccer match, imagine those same fans inside an arena. The thing that I've been most blessed to give is the opportunity for all of my family to experience places and things that people don't ordinarily see.
Flying M: I think everyone was disappointed to see Stansbury's tenure end on such a sour note. As someone who played for him during your career at State, give your thoughts on his last seasons and departure.
TB: I'm probably a little biased because Stans was my coach. Personally I didn't want to see him leave. I thought the tradition he had built is what every program wants. Championships aren't easy to come by. To have a program in the SEC with the likes of Kentucky, Florida, Tenn, etc. that can compete at the top year in and year out is not very likely. Somehow Stans managed to do that at Mississippi State. In saying that, I do believe in his later years he kind of lost what got him to that point. Stans was always big on discipline. We were always held accountable for what we did or didn't do. I remember a few times he'd tell Frazier he had to go and get his hair cut or tell another player he needed to shave. He didn't allow braids, doo rags, hell I remember him telling Mario after the SEC tournament championship to turn his hat around (Mario had it on backwards). He was old fashioned to a fault sometimes, but it worked for him. As time went on, I think he eased up some and allowed things that normally he wouldn't have. IMO that's when things kind of went south and when that happens, most of the time a change is going to take place.
Flying M: On to the current team. We struggled in non-conference, but have been competitive in SEC play, now that Sword and Ready are mostly healthy. What's your assessment of Rick Ray's performance, and what are your expectations or goals for the future?
TB: Honestly I think Coach Ray has done an exceptional job considering what he has been dealt. When he took over the program he really didn't have the chance to go out and recruit. He had to find, interview, and hire assistants, move his family, and get acclimated to a new region. Not to mention Bost, Moultrie, Sidney, and Hood leaving. His first season, he only had a few scholarship players and some walk-ons. The next year you get some players in but you have some injuries, players are still young. This season looked to be the breakout season, but unfortunately we had some serious injuries early on. Things that take time to recover from – back injuries, Zappardo’s ACL injury. Now in SEC play things look a lot better. I think the thing they are searching for now is consistency. Keep getting better and enjoy the process of it. We have to understand that it takes time to completely rebuild a program starting from scratch. We are headed in the right direction.
Flying M: If you could take one former Mississippi State and insert him in our current roster, who would it be, and why?
TB: I'd take Derrick Zimmerman. I think because the team is so young they lack a bit of leadership. Z has a way of leading that I haven't seen too many other people have. Everything we accomplished started with him in my eyes. I got there as a frosh and I watched him work tirelessly. I saw how bad he wanted to win and change the culture of the program. He spoke of something different every day, but more importantly he showed us how to go about it. We always used to talk about being the head of the snake, if you cut the head off the snake is dead. Well our snake was fierce, he'd look back at us on defense and wouldn't have to say anything. We knew what to do by the look in his eyes. When people look at that '04 championship team and see me as the leader, it was because I learned from who I thought was the best at it.
Flying M: Where are you living now, and what does the future hold for Timmy Bowers?
TB: I'm living in Houston, TX now. Been there about 2 years. I don't know how much longer I'll be playing, but after I definitely feel I will be coaching in some capacity. Whether its high school or college, I have a lot to offer from a basketball standpoint, but also in helping kids believe in themselves to achieve their goals.
Flying M: Finally, I just gotta ask. Did you guys hate Mark Gottfried as much as we (the fans) did?
TB: Hated is an understatement. (kidding) Lol #Hailstate