In January, Phoenix signed guard Zabian Dowdell for the D-League’s first Gatorade Call-Up of the season. Today, the Suns announced they have signed him for the rest of the year. Could it have been his What’s My Name? feature in Dime #62? Perhaps. Either way, take a minute to learn more about the newest full-time member of the Association.
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Zabian Dowdell’s love for the game of basketball is pretty strong. As a kid he could have chosen the gridiron for more notoriety, but he just could not get rid of his basketball jones. Dowdell was born and raised in Pahokee, Fla. (also known as “The Muck” because of the mucky soil when it rains). It’s your normal small, blue-collar town where everyone knows each other. Some pretty talented football players have come out of this town, including Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin, Patriots running back Fred Taylor and Hall of Fame Saints linebacker Rickey Jackson.
With Friday night high school football games being a way of life, Dowdell recalls living his as a hoopster in Pahokee being pretty tough, sometimes lonely.
“It was a lot of times I would be on the basketball court by myself,” says Dowdell. “The city league, if the season was over then man, you might not be able to find a pickup game. Every player has his challenges growing up, but I was always one of those guys that didn’t mind going to the gym by myself with my high school coach just working, trying to improve.”
A four-year starter at Pahokee High School, the 6-3 guard was first team all-state as a junior and senior. He averaged 23 points, eight assists and seven rebounds per game as a senior, leading up to being named the Palm Beach Post Player of the Year in 2003. Still, not many college coaches were traveling to “The Muck” for hoops. The nearest AAU squad was about an hour away, so his national exposure was limited at best. The only offers Dowdell received were from East Carolina, Florida Atlantic and South Florida. He accepted a scholarship from Virginia Tech after Seth Greenburg left South Florida for the head coaching position in Blacksburg.
Dowdell did not disappoint as Greenburg’s first recruit. He improved his numbers in each of his four years (2003-07), finishing as one of the best players in Hokies history. He is eighth on the school’s career scoring list (1,785), sixth in assists (380) and third in steals (241). So, with Dowdell having solid size for a point guard and showing pro-ready scoring ability, scorching the ACC’s finest such as Duke and North Carolina, the NBA was a foregone conclusion, right?
Well, after being projected as a late first- to second-round pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, Dowdell went undrafted (despite rumors, he denies a promise by the Spurs with their 28th pick). He had to face the pain of seeing teams draft on potential from the likes of Stanko Barac, Renaldas Seibutis and Giorgos Printezis among others, rather than take their chances on a four-year player proven in one of the better college conferences.
No worries. Dowdell continue to grind. He spent time showcasing his skills in France, Italy and Spain before landing with the D-League’s Tulsa 66ers this season.
“It was a great experience,” says Dowdell of his time overseas. “The level of competition over there is very good. It was a great experience for me. Seeing different parts of the world and playing a different style of basketball. You know once you go overseas man, you get locked into a deal, you have to deal with a buyout and all of that other stuff. Here, if an NBA team wants to do something with you, they don’t have to worry about the buyout or dealing with a foreign club or anything like that.”
Dowdell is fitting in nicely as one of the team leaders, averaging 16.7 points and 4.8 assists a game. A call-up may be in his future, but as Dowdell can attest to, you can never call it in the business of professional sports.
“It’s pretty much a few teams, they might inquire about you, but with professional basketball you never know,” says Dowdell. “It’s not about who’s the best player really. It’s really not about who is the most talented. You really never know what teams are looking for until I guess they sign you.”
Maybe Dowdell’s summer league time in 2007 with the Seattle Supersonics and training camp with the Phoenix Suns this year will be the extent of his NBA experience. Dowdell insists he is not sweating it. He knows he can hoop anywhere. That’s the beauty of the game. His loyalty to it hasn’t wavered.
“At the end of the day, what’s gonna happen is gonna happen,” says Dowdell. “I just leave it in God’s hands. If it’s meant to be, then it will be. Do I feel like I’m good enough to play at the next level? Of course. I’ve never doubted that for one second.”
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