GARY | A favorite saying of Bulls' coach Tom Thibodeau when a player goes down with injury is "Next up."
There are no health issues for Bowman boys basketball coach Marvin Rea's semistate-bound squad, but he has a similar attitude regarding players stepping up when it's their time.
He boldly proclaims the team will go as far as 6-foot-3 senior Antonio Pipkin and 6-7 junior Justin King lead it. And King, in particular, has taken it to heart this 16-9 season.
Bowman won the Class A state title in 2010 and was 2A state runner-up in 2012, but King refuses to live off the past. It's all about now, about beating Tipton (25-2) at Saturday's Huntington Semistate.
"You got to expect the unexpected with us. You got to watch out for everything," said King, who began the season running the point, then moved to the wing. "Shooters. Banging on the inside. Rebounding. We do everything.
"And this team is different. We got discipline and that comes from Coach Marvin. It's going to benefit us in tight games."
For his imposing size and talent, King is remarkably humble and soft spoken. He said going to state never gets old, that his game is progressing but slowly, and that on a grading scale, he'd give himself a C-plus.
"I came a long way," he admits. "I wasn't able to play basketball at all when I started out in sixth grade, but I worked hard, my coaches worked with me, and I got better.
"But I got to get even better ... my shooting, my ball-handling and my defense. I got a lot of room for improvement."
So did the Eagles when they began the season 0-4 and 2-7 against very tough competition, most of it from outside the area.
"I thank my coach for giving us that schedule to get us ready for the tournament every year," said King, whose 7.1 rebounds per game ties him with Davon Dillard for second on the team.
To shake things up, Rea demoted five varsity players to JV and kept them there until their attitude and work ethic improved.
"I've seen improvement in Justin's play from a leadership standpoint," Rea said. "I think he's pushing himself harder at practice. He probably takes that from me. I'm kind of a perfectionist when it comes to this basketball thing.
"Sky's the limit for Justin, especially with his skill set and his talent. He's actually switched gears in postseason. He stepped up his rebounding. He can shoot the 3. He can handle the ball and penetrate."
Sounds much better than a C-plus.
"I think that's being pretty hard on himself but only Justin knows his true talents and whether or not he can take it to the next level," Rea said. "I truly think he can.
"If there's two more grades he can get, I'm excited as a coach because if he can get us to a B and an A for state, then I'll be happy."