by Bob San
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
Over the years, Osseo High School has produced many outstanding basketball players who went on to star at the college level. But no Oriole has enjoyed the kind of success at the Div. I level that 2009 graduate Sam Dower has this season.
Dower, a 6-9 255 pound junior forward, is a member of the Gonzaga basketball team that finished the regular season as the No. 1 ranked team in the nation for the first time in school history. The Bulldogs received the No. 1 seed in the West Regional, also a school first. It was the Zags’15th straight NCAA tournament, a streak that nationally trails only Kansas (24), Duke (18) and Michigan State (16). The Bulldogs defeated Southern but were upset by the No. 9 seed Wichita State in the round of 32 last Saturday.
“We have never had a player who plays for the No. 1 ranked team in the country,” Osseo head coach Tim Theisen said. “It’s really a credit to Sam.”
Dower has worked hard to get where he is today since arriving from Osseo High. He red shirted in his freshman season but since then has been a key member of Gonzaga, a program that has turned into one of the most successful in the country despite its small enrollment. He came off the bench in his freshman and sophomore seasons, but started seven games earlier this year. In the 2012-13 season, Dower played in all 35 games, averaged 16 minutes and 7 points per game. He shot .565 percent on two-point field goals and .308 in threes.
Dower is a powerful 6-9, but he is one of a plethora of big men dotting the Gonzaga roster this season. All-American Kelly Olynyk is at 7-0, Newcomer Przemek Karnowski stretches the tape to 7-1. Elias Harris checks in at 6-8. Dower honed his skills everyday at practice against these giant teammates.
“Practice is a war. Night in and night out it’s a battle. We have some really good bigs,” Dower noted. “All four of us are pretty strong and physical so it just makes us better competing at that high level at practice every night. That just helps us out in games. We’re use to battling for rebounds, scoring over bigger defenders and things like that…”
Dower said one of the reasons for Gonzaga’s success this year is its great team chemistry.
“This is definitely the best chemistry I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” he said. “Every single player. We’ve had good chemistry with a few players in past years. This is the first year everybody likes each other, nobody thinks they are better than anybody else and we all have one goal.”
Fans of Osseo basketball will remember Dower as probably the most dominant big man to come out of the program. He made the varsity team midway through his sophomore year then blossomed as a junior and played on the Osseo team led by Carrington Tankson that was ranked No. 1 in the state and went 28-1. Their lone setback was a 60-59 loss to Cooper in the region final.
In his senior year, Dower starred on a team that lost Carrington and many top seniors to graduation and put it on his back. Oriole coaches and players all called that team “Sam’s Team” and he did not disappoint. Osseo defeated Cooper in the section final to reach he 2009 state tournament. The Orioles went all the way to the state championship game before losing a hard-fought battle to a Hopkins team that many regarded as the best high school team in Minnesota history. Dower had a monster season as he averaged 24 points, 12 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game and shot 61 percent from the field. He had 23 games of 20+points, eight games of 30+ points with a season-high of 38.
“Sam was a stud for us,” Theisen said. “He led us to the state championship game where we took second place.”
Dower was highly recruited and chose Gonzaga over Minnesota, Iowa and Marquette because he likes Bulldogs coach Mark Few and his playing style. Because Gonzaga is on the west coast and plays many late games, Theisen is often able to watch his former star in action.
“We got to see a lot of his games,” Theisen said. “We are really proud of Sam.”
While Gonzaga saw its season come to an unexpected end with the loss to Wichita State, Dower and the Bulldogs will try to have another banner season in 2013-14.
(This article contains information provided by the Gonzaga University Athletic Department.)