Tyrekus Bowman doesn't leap over buildings in a single bound. Just tables.
During the CSRA High School All-Star Game slam-dunk contest, Bowman and his two slender legs soared over four legs to send Christenberry Fieldhouse into a frenzy. He won the event.
"I was going to do something crazy," Bowman said. "People couldn't believe it. I just decided to do it."
Augusta State doesn't keep a list of its all-time most exciting players. If it did, the sophomore forward would be somewhere near the top.
He is the Jaguars' version of Dominique Wilkins, the school's own Human Highlight Film. Bowman, who effortlessly glides through the air, is the king of the alley-oop dunk. But it's his entire game that has people talking this season.
After a mild freshman campaign, Bowman is putting up impressive numbers. He is second on the team in scoring and third in the conference in rebounding.
"He's the foundation of the program," Augusta State coach Dip Metress said. "He's learning to be the go-to guy. He's still not where he's going to be one day."
Bowman's come a long way in a short time. When the Jaguars play host to Paine College at 7:30 tonight, he'll be one of the featured players.
Though he began playing basketball at age 5, Bowman didn't start playing school basketball until his sophomore year at Washington-Wilkes. A six-inch growth spurt during the summer made all the difference.
"I wasn't good enough to make the team," said Bowman, who sprouted from 5-foot-9 to 6-3. "Then I grew."
With his height explosion, Bowman took his athleticism to new levels. He dunked for the first time on a 10-foot goal. Then he stuffed a 360-degree dunk during a game in his junior season.
After his senior year, he made a name for himself at the 2004 CSRA High School All-Star Game.
Ironically, Metress sat in the stands as the then coach of Belmont Abbey. The Augusta State position had not opened yet.
Two months later, Metress became the head Jaguar. Before a 2 p.m. press conference announcing his arrival, Metress first drove to Bowman's school to persuade him to join him.
Schools like Georgia College & State, Radford and Coastal Georgia Community College showed Bowman interest. But he decided to give Metress a chance. It's choice he hasn't regretted.
"Without coach and Augusta State, I don't think I'd be in college," said Bowman, a business management major. "Just my friends that I hung out with; half of them didn't graduate high school. Basketball was my way to escape, at least from them. I'd probably been in the same boat."
Bowman, 19, is in another stratosphere, though he doesn't know how high he can get off the ground. He admitted he's hit his head on the rim several times.
"Good players don't know their vertical leap," he said.
Few people know the meaning of his nickname "A.J," including Metress.
"One time I asked him about it and he said, 'Coach, it doesn't make any sense,'" Metress said. "That's OK. My nickname's 'Dip' and that doesn't make any sense either."
Actually, Bowman's nickname does make sense. Bowman's father, Aaron Jr., wanted his son to be named Aaron Bowman III. His mother Melissa vetoed it. So dad began calling his son "A.J."
And his mom's OK with it.
"She's the main one calling me that," he said.
The fact that people are calling Bowman's name means he's becoming more productive. He's averaging 13.3 points a game. And despite his lack of size (6-foot-5, 178 pounds), he's pulling down 8.9 boards a game.
"He's an inside guy with a perimeter guy's body," Metress said.
Metress said Bowman has passed every goal he's given him, except one: to stay healthy.
Bowman has fought through persistent ankle injuries, though he's missed just three of 37 games. Metress said Bowman jumps so high, he's prone to physical abuse.
In the season opener against Paine, Bowman suffered a mild concussion after an awkward dunk caused him to hit his head on the floor.
But Bowman said he's finally healthy. And that means, he's ready to try out some new dunks.
"Coach told me I can do whatever I want to do as long as I make it," he said. "Since we owe them, I'd love for it to be against Paine. But only if we win."
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
FG percentage: 53.0
Notables: Has won two slam dunk contests ... goes by "A.J." ... third in Peach Belt in rebounding
Paine vs. Augusta State
When: 5:30 p.m. (women); 7:30 p.m. (men) today
Where: Christenberry Fieldhouse
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