As basketball season approaches, Pipe Dream Sports has begun releasing its annual Basketball Issue content, which will be published over the next few weeks. This is the first such article.

After a promising freshman year with the Binghamton women’s basketball team, guard Denai Bowman is ready to step into an increased role as she begins her sophomore season with the program. She was the fourth-highest scorer on the team with 6.6 points per game and was third in steals, ending the season with 27 total.

Prior to her freshman success at Binghamton, Bowman began playing basketball at a young age but temporarily stopped to play travel soccer, returning to the sport in middle school and finding a passion for it. Since she’s been a Bearcat, Bowman has welcomed competition.

“The competition and the mentality are much different [from high school],” Bowman said. “The girls are stronger, faster, so you have to be here to compete.”

Bowman was also named the America East (AE) Rookie of the Week on Nov. 20, reached double figures in scoring eight times and maintained a GPA of 3.3 or higher for both semesters.

Last season, three key seniors, guards Kai Moon, Carly Boland and Karlee Krchnavi, graduated and two players transferred. Bowman, who was one of the youngest members of the team, is now taking on a newfound leadership role this season.

“We had great leadership players [last season], so I was just trying to keep up with them and do what I can and playing the best game possible,” Bowman said. “There’s a lot of stepping up that I have to do because of all the people that graduated and the people that transferred, so I definitely have a bigger role to play this season.”

After reaching the AE semifinals last season as a reserve player, Bowman will be stepping into a starting role as she looks to lead this year’s team to the playoffs.

“I’m definitely the type to show you how to work hard,” Bowman said. “My work ethic is what I do and how I lead my team. I’m not an outspoken person, so I just do what I can through my actions, and I try to help my teammates feel inspired by that. To motivate them, I cheer them on and tell them to lift their heads up and just try to keep their confidence high.”

As the Bearcats’ top returning player, Bowman said she is up to the challenge of motivating and leading her teammates during the pandemic.

“I think this season is going to be very interesting, playing back to back,” Bowman said. “It might be challenging to try to adjust, but you just have to go with it.”

Not only does the schedule have a new look this season, but the team does as well, as three new transfers and one freshman joined this season’s roster. Bowman said that the newcomers are adapting well to collegiate basketball, continually taking initiative and responding well to the coaches. She wants this season to be less about developing herself as an individual player and more about establishing chemistry with her teammates both on and off the court.

“My team goal is to establish a connection with my new teammates because we are basically a new team,” Bowman said. “We have a lot of new good transfers. I want to establish that chemistry on and off the court so we can grow as a team because we are fairly young and just win, give it our all, get better every day.”