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Longtime Windward Hoops Coach Zeroes In On Knights

Neil Bowers didn’t have a lot of experience in the role of underdog as a player for Kalaheo, which sets the standard for excellence on the local hardwood.

As Castle’s new head coach for boys basketball, he hopes the Knights’ own days as the underdog will be drawing to a close.

“The appeal of coaching at Castle is that not so much has been expected lately, and I want to change that,” he said. “I want to make us a respectable opponent again. Sean did a good job of that last year, as far as keeping us competitive. When Rocky Fraticelli was here, they were good — they had the athletes and the numbers.”

Bowers has been teaching mathematics at Castle since 2009 and spent the past two seasons as the boys JV coach on Sean Kawakami’s staff. He was previously head coach for the girls varsity at Kalaheo, leading the Lady Mustangs to an OIA White title in 2013. Bowers resigned from Kalaheo at that season’s end to pursue a career opportunity overseas, but his plans changed and he remained on Oahu.

“I’m excited for the new challenge,” Bowers said. “After coaching JV girls at Kalaheo, varsity girls at Kalaheo, JV boys at Castle, I’m kind of at the top of the line in high school here.”

Castle went 8-16 overall last year, including preseason games. The Knights went 3-8 in the OIA East.

Bowers was a two-sport athlete at Kalaheo as a student, competing in basketball and football. He played basketball under the late Pete Smith for three seasons as well as a year for Smith’s successor, Chico Furtado. The Mustangs were OIA champions all four years with Bowers in the fold in addition to being the state tournament runner-up in 2002 and 2004.

Bowers will build his 2015-16 Castle team around junior guard Jeremy McGoldrick. A transfer from Chicago two years ago, McGoldrick averaged 6.8 points per game (to go with 15 three-pointers) for the Knights last season and earned an OIA East’s Honorable Mention. “I can’t express how tough this kid is,” Bowers said. “He’s an excellent defender who won’t back down to anybody. His dad was a minor league baseball player, so it is in the genes.

“We have a really young, talented core,” he added.

Among Bowers’ priorities early on will be to try to increase player numbers from Castle’s current enrollment of about 1,200, he said. He began an intramural lunch league two years ago and has seen it grow in popularity, giving hope for the future that it may inspire kids to turn out for basketball.

“Originally, every Friday, I and a few other teachers would go and play on the outdoor courts at school. We’d have close to 100 kids coming out. I would referee and run the league. More and more kids started coming out and wanting to play. We would have another 80 to 100 kids there to watch.”

Bowers isn’t a huge fan of specialization, however, although the pursuit of college scholarships has led many to believe they have to work on one sport year round. “I think kids should play as many sports as they can,” he said. “If you’re really good at a sport, they (college coaches) will find you.”