After spending three years as a member of Mercer’s men’s basketball team, senior Jaylen Stowe has learned a valuable lesson: don’t take anything for granted.
“Four years may seem like a long time, but it goes by really fast,” Stowe said. You have to make the most out of every day because it’ll be over before you know it.”
Over the past few years, Stowe has done just that. The 6’4, 220-pound guard appeared in every game of his sophomore and junior seasons as a Bear, but is set to take on an even larger role this year.
Stowe has started each of the team’s five contests this season and has already set a new career high in points and steals, scoring 11 against both UAB and UT Martin and racking up four steals against Maryland-Eastern Shore. However, his impact on the game is not always evident in the box score.
“I bring a lot of energy on both ends of the floor,” he said. “I see myself as the best defensive player on the team, so my bread and butter is to make sure the team is locked in on defense. Offensively, I try to focus on being aggressive, finishing at the rim and finding my teammates whenever they’re open.”
Stowe’s self-described energetic style played a role in his decision to attend Mercer in the first place. A good relationship with similarly-energetic head coach Bob Hoffman helped lead Stowe to Macon. That relationship has become one of his favorite aspects of being on the team.
“Coach Hoffman is an energetic guy just like myself, so playing for him is a lot of fun. The coaching staff and the energy I feel when we play in front of a home crowd is what I enjoy most about playing here,” Stowe said.
However, Coach Hoffman does not get all the credit for Stowe’s decision to come to Macon.
“Mercer was my first scholarship offer, so I really appreciated that, and I just felt like there was a family-like atmosphere when I first visited,” Stowe said.
As one of the most experienced seniors on the team, Stowe has stepped into a leadership role this year, a role that is even more important this year than in others. The Bears graduated several key players last year, and have filled in the gaps with 10 new players, including eight true freshmen. This young group will have to step up if the Bears are going to have a successful season.
“We just have to play through it and not keep making the same mistakes. Experience is the best teacher, so getting the young guys playing time is really the best way for them to learn how the college game works,” Stowe said. “In college, everybody is good, so it comes down to whoever plays and executes the best.”
After losing so many key players, one might expect the team to feel some pressure heading into the season, especially given the Bears’ history of success in basketball. But at least in Stowe’s case, there is no pressure at all.
“I feel like I’ve prepared myself for this situation and I think our team has prepared itself to meet the expectations that are set for us,” Stowe said. “Whether we’re able to exceed those expectations is up to us and how hard we play and how together we play.”
While he may not feel any pressure, Stowe still has the same lofty expectations that any player might have for his team.
“Obviously, the goal is to win a conference championship and play in the NCAA tournament. We have to keep working and getting better every day so that we can have a chance to play for a championship in March,” he said.
Regardless of how this season turns out, there has never been a doubt about Stowe’s post-graduation plans.
“After I graduate, I plan on playing professionally, whether that’s the in the NBA, G-League, or somewhere overseas. That’s been my dream ever since I started playing basketball.”