St. John’s College High School teammates Anthony Cowan Jr. and Jeff Dowtin had taken the court together many times before.
But for the first time this past Saturday night, Cowan and Dowtin, a guard duo that helped lead the Cadets to two 25-plus win seasons and a WCAC Championship in 2015-16, took to the floor sporting different jerseys.
Cowan donned white Maryland threads, while Dowtin was in shades of blue for Rhode Island.
“[Dowtin] will always be one of my favorite teammates to play with,” Cowan said. “So happy that we got the chance to battle in college.”
Cowan and Dowtin’s relationship began when they were about 10 years old. The duo were teammates on a recreational basketball team that played in Lanham, Maryland, before splitting up to top-tier AAU teams.
While Cowan joined D.C. Assault, an AAU organization that previously featured former Maryland basketball guard Melo Trimble, Dowtin played for Team Takeover, which former Terp Dion Wiley and Jalen Smith spent time on. Both teams have featured NBA players such as Josh Hart, Quinn Cook, Jeff Green and Michael Beasley.
After his final season with D.C Assault in 2013, Cowan moved to the D.C. Thunder organization for two years. Dowtin also switched AAU teams after his sophomore year of high school, moving to the D.C. Blue Devils — a team that included former No. 1 pick and current Orlando Magic guard Markelle Fultz — according to Cowan’s father, Anthony Cowan Sr.
“They were around each other, but they never really competed against each other,” Cowan Sr. said.
After each spent their freshman year seasons at different WCAC high schools— Cowan at Good Counsel Catholic High School and Dowtin at Paul VI Catholic High School — the duo finally reunited at St. John’s in time for their sophomore campaign with former Cadet head coach Sean McAloon.
Under WCAC rules, a player can transfer between WCAC schools before their sophomore year with no penalty.
Both players came to St. John’s looking for a new environment. Good Counsel’s then-head coach stepped down, allowing Anthony Cowan Jr. to join McAloon’s roster the summer going into his sophomore campaign. Dowtin followed a similar path months later after spending the summer with Paul VI, reuniting him with Cowan.
“Jeff transferred from a high school that really should have played him a lot more than he did,” Cowan Jr. said. “But when he got to St. John’s, that’s when we both started really playing our best basketball — and we [did] it together.”
The then-sophomores joined a team that was top-heavy with talented seniors; including James Palmer Jr., who just completed a collegiate career at Nebraska, Trey Campbell, who spent time at South Carolina and Georgetown, Darian Bryant, who played one season for George Washington and then four for Delaware, along with a few others.
That year, Cowan Jr. was utilized more as a sixth or seventh man, while Dowtin’s minutes fluctuated — although McAloon said that he started to improve midway through the season.
“[Anthony] forced himself into the conversation a little earlier than [Jeff] did,” McAloon said. “I think Jeff saw that and then obviously kind of pissed him off a little bit. [Jeff] got to work on his game and on his body and just continually got better year-in and year-out.”
During their junior season, Cowan Jr. and Dowtin saw larger roles and continued to develop their trust of one another. The two juniors, along with their teammate and fellow point guard Dejuan Clayton, began to mesh well together that season and showed a lot of promise, according to McAloon.
“I could play them all together because they could all pass — they all can drive — they can all shoot,” McAloon, who now coaches at IMG Academy, said. “It [became] a really crazy dynamic to have three central point guards on the floor — so you have three coaches, essentially.”
That season, Cowan Jr., Dowtin and Clayton led St. John’s to an upset victory over Gonzaga, capturing the D.C. State Athletic Association title. McAloon’s three junior point guards combined for 57 points, with Dowtin scoring 25 of them.
Nearly a year later in February 2016, Cowan Jr. and Dowtin completed their high school career with a WCAC championship win, beating a Fultz-led DeMatha team 71-57.
Cowan Jr. led the team with 21 points and seven assists, while Dowtin contributed 13 points and five assists. The two St. John’s seniors and the rest of the Cadets kept Fultz in-check, limiting him to only 12 points.
“Winning a WCAC championship my senior year — bringing a championship back to St. John’s really meant a lot,” Dowtin said.
The Cadets captured their first WCAC title since 2000, ending what was a 15-year drought. Cowan Jr. was named the Washington Post’s All-Met Sports Player of the Year and was a member of the All-Met First Team, while Dowtin was named to the All-Met Second Team.
“Because of their friendship, because of their relationship, they were able to play off of one another,” Cowan Sr. said. “You never knew who was going to inbound the ball or bring the ball up the floor. You never knew who was going to take the last shot. And I think that’s what made them so successful.”
Prior to tipoff between Maryland and Rhode Island this past Saturday in front of a countless number of family members for the two, Cowan Jr. and Dowtin greeted another with a quick dap and a brief hug in front of many of their family members. The two competitors didn’t need a long embrace to grasp the mutual respect that they have for one another.
The once recreational basketball teammates were now at the Division I level, competing on a national stage with FS1 broadcasting a game between the No. 7 team in the country and a gifted Atlantic 10 team that was two years removed from an NCAA Tournament berth.
“It means a lot knowing where we come from,” Dowtin said. “Knowing how much we love the game of basketball [and] just being able to play on that next level means the world.”
McAloon, who watched the game from his couch, was proud to see his former players matchup approximately 12 miles away from a location that they had shared so much success.
“I wanted them to guard each other more. It would bring it back to almost like when they were together at St. John’s,” McAloon said. “It was almost like one of those thing where I wanted them both to score 20 and get 10 assists and neither team lose.”
In the first time that the duo played at the Xfinity Center, Cowan Jr. went on to score 14 points — all coming in the second half — and secure a victory for the Terps. Dowtin finished with 14 points and two steals.
“[Dowtin is] family,” Cowan Jr. said. “That’s something that we’re just always going to talk about down the road — can’t wait until the years when we are 30 sitting somewhere just talking about when we played each other in college our senior year. It’s just crazy how it came full circle.”