GARY | Why are so many people jealous of Bowman Academy and its wildly successful basketball program?
Is it the public's general dislike of charter schools that attract the very best talent? Is that why athletic director and head coach Marvin Rea can't find a conference to call home?
Saturday's nervous win over Tipton at the 2A Huntington North Semistate saw a modest turnout of Bowman supporters while the Blue Devils filled their side of the fieldhouse 75 minutes before tip-off.
No matter. The superior program won and will be making its third appearance at state since 2010.
Earlier in the week, Rea talked about his coaching style. It was just us, after practice, in the privacy of a deserted Bowman gym.
The job goes way beyond wins and losses for the Roosevelt grad and former Purdue player. It's about building character, leadership and being accountable.
Walk through the school at 3401 W. 5th Ave., near where the Gary Budd Plant used to be, and you're met by courteous staff and polite, uniformed students, clean surroundings and lots of smiles.
Bowman is not a basketball factory that uses its athletes, then spits them out.
"Every team, since the 2010 championship, has been worried about whether the students or general public liked them," Rea said. "As I explained to them, in life, you can't worry about whether people like you.
"We don't care if people like us. As long as they respect us, that's all that matters."
Next school year, Bowman moves up in class to 3A where it probably should've been this season, based on talent level alone.
"If you give 110 percent every night, people are going to respect that," Rea said. "People don't want to see kids play half-ass basketball. They want them to respect the game, to play hard and play together.
"If you buy into that, you'll win games."
Talent is like a fancy restaurant. It can't be looks alone that make it a hit. The menu must be exceptional for the doors to stay open.
"People have the impression you're just going to walk in, put on a Bowman uniform, and play," Rea said. "They think we don't work hard here but there are standards you have to live up to on and off the court.
"You have to be a student-athlete. The only 'magic' here at Bowman is that our kids work hard, academically and athletically."
There are no free rides at Bowman, Rea warns.
"It's just like the real world. Every day, somebody's coming after your job," he said. "You gotta be ready to perform because there's some hotshot kid right out of college trying to get your job."
Same at Bowman, where there are freshmen fighting for roster spots.
The Eagles began their season losing seven of the first nine games against mostly 4A schools. But there were no panic attacks.
"This team has truly grown from the bottom to the top from a maturity standpoint," Rea said.
On occasion, though, a Times staffer writes about Bowman and the article attracts negative, sometimes racist, comments online that have to be deleted.
Why? Rea's kids are playing for the region.
Bowman Academy is our last hope for a state championship. It has accomplished what neither Andrean nor Merrillville, both good teams, could do.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org