Almost every young basketball player in the 1990s wanted to “Be Like Mike” growing up.
Mike LaTorre wants the Millville High School boys’ program to “Be Like Bow.”
As in senior captain Calem Bowman.
The four-year player and two-year starter doesn’t drop jaws like Michael Jordan did. Bowman’s averaging 5.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals this season.
However, he’s the heartbeat of the program and a shining example of what a high school athlete should be.
“He’s a constant,” LaTorre, the team’s first-year head coach, said. “Every day you know he’s going to show up, he’s going to work hard and he’s going to be a leader by example. He doesn’t speak that often, he’s not a vocal leader, but when he speaks everybody stops and listens because he doesn’t talk often. When he talks, I stop. Oh, he’s talking, everybody be quiet. Listen to what he’s got to say.”
LaTorre showed his admiration for Bowman on Wednesday when he presented his players with new team T-shirts.
On the front of the black garment is a white Thunderbolt logo with the word “BASKETBALL” written underneath. The only other marking on the shirt are three letters on the left sleeve, “BLB.”
Millville players kept asking LaTorre what they meant, and he happily explained the “Be Like Bow” meaning.
“He works his butt off,” LaTorre said. “He doesn’t have to be about Bow. He just does anything the team needs from him. For us, he’s always guarding the other team’s best player. He’s always going to be either first or second in rebounds, first or second in steals. He doesn’t average a ton of points, but he’s OK with that. That’s not what it’s about for him. It’s about the team winning.”
After LaTorre explained what he felt “Be like Bow” meant, the Thunderbolts expressed what it meant to them to Bowman.
“It just felt good inside,” Bowman said. “It felt warm. It shows that my teammates and my brotherhood, we built a brotherhood. We trust each other and love each other as if we share the same blood.”
It’s another bond that made Bowman the way he is.
For Bowman, “Be Like Bow” is about his mother, Chemyra Bowman.
She’s raised six children, is a manager at ShopRite and the president of the Millville Basketball Association. She’s always there for kids, both her own or those in the league.
“Anything that she can do to help anybody any way she can, the best she can, (she will),” Calem said. “She tries to rub positivity off on everybody, make sure everybody is good before her.”
“I got to give (assistant coach Jason) Kessler credit,” LaTorre said. “His thing is always star in your role. Whatever your role is on the team, whether you’re a starter, come off the bench, don’t play a lot, just be the best at that job. I think (Bowman) epitomizes star in your role.”
LaTorre needed Bowman to take on a different role on Monday when the Thunderbolts took on Oakcrest.
All the Millville assistants were out, which forced LaTorre to coach the JV game. LaTorre needed his players to prepare themselves for the Falcons, and Bowman took charge.
The pregame board was set and Bowman gathered his team and led a discussion on the night’s game plan.
The Thunderbolts got off to a slow start but wound up rallying for a 50-48 triumph.
“I was having a bad game,” said sophomore Khalon Foster, also Bowman’s cousin. “He pulled me to the side, said keep shooting your shots, they’ll fall eventually. Don’t put your head down.
“It meant a lot because it shows he cares and he knows that I can do better.”
Foster scored a team-best 14 points in the win.
“Be like Bowman means be a better person,” Foster said. “Be better for the freshmen we have. Help each other out. He’s always 100 percent.”
Bowman and the Thunderbolt football team have lived by the acronym “OBG” for years. The “Orange and Blue Gang” is about family, hard work and identity.
It was the backbone of their success.
“OBG won me a state championship,” Bowman said.
Millville basketball is 10-3 entering Friday, and LaTorre hopes “BLB” can eventually be a building block of a title team on the hardwood.
Josh Friedman has produced award-winning South Jersey sports coverage for the Courier Post, The Daily Journal and the Burlington County Times for more than a decade. If you have or know of an interesting story to tell, reach out on Twitter at @JFriedman57 or via email at email@example.com. You can also contact him at 856-486-2431. Help support local journalism with a subscription.
This article originally appeared on Vineland Daily Journal: Millville basketball tries to Be Like Bow, as in captain Calem Bowman