“Everyone in the lockerroom believes that we can win” Bears guard Skyler Bowlin talks Denmark hoops, career & Jerusalem clash

Nov 30, 2022 | Holyland Hoops

Hapoel Jerusalem hosts Bakken Bears in a critical Basketball Champions League contest on Wednesday night (21:00) in the capital city. The Reds enter the clash with a 2-1 record good for second place in Group E while the Danish club comes to Israel with a record of 0-3 in search of their first win.

The last time the two sides faced each other back on November 1st, Jerusalem was just able to squeak out a 72-71 win thanks to Mareks Mejeris’s dunk with just 3 seconds left on the clock.
Bakken Bears will look to avenge the tough loss and try to get back into the playoff picture in the Holy Land with veteran guard Skyler Bowlin leading the way. The Arkansas native has been playing international basketball since the 2011/12 season when he made his first foray into European Hoops following four years at NCAA Division II Missouri Southern.

Just ahead of the big clash at the Jerusalem Arena, Bowlin spoke to The Sports Rabbi about his career, his potential future plans as well as basketball in Denmark along with his thoughts on the first game between the two teams.

Skyler Bowlin – Photo Credit: FIBA

“Last game against Jerusalem hurt,” Bowlin began. “We had prepared really well for that game and executed what we wanted to. But Jerusalem is a high level club and we knew that if we made some errors they would capitalize on the mistakes. It wasn’t an easy pill to swallow but we are excited to play them again.”

Bowlin who grew up in Paragould, Arkansas, a city of roughly 25,000 people never thought that playing professional basketball was in the cards, but as his college career neared its end that option presented itself.

“When you’re a kid you dream about playing basketball for a living and in the US you know about the NBA and I knew nothing about European basketball until my senior year in college. I signed a contract in Germany and made very little money but as time went on I continued to advance in my career and I am also married to European (Danish) woman and I’m still here. Where I’m from, most people don’t leave the town in Arkansas.”

The 33-year old started at the bottom of the ladder and over time worked his way up while carving out a solid decade plus career, “When my professional career began I was in was in the 2nd league in Germany. We were the worst team in the league and I loved where I was at, but from a basketball sense it wasn’t as professional as other clubs and it lacked various things a team should have. It took me years to get to where I wanted to be at a top level.”

Skyler Bowlin – Photo Credit: FIBA

Bowlin won back-to-back championships in 2015 in Denmark with Horsens where he was also named the league MVP and then with Sodertalje in Sweden, plus he collected the Finals MVP in 2016.
“The struggle to win is kind of the same at the end of the day no matter what country you are playing in. You don’t think about that at all but just winning when you get to that point of the season. The satisfaction is unbelievable and you aren’t thinking about where you are playing as it really doesn’t matter.”

Next up for Bowlin was four years in Germany where he featured for three teams in Gissen, Science City and Wurzburg which was followed by stops in Greece and Poland before a return trip to Germany and Bonn.

“When I went back to Germany a few years later I took advantage of where I was. I played in the FIBA Europe Cup for two years and the BCL is at a higher level where I am now. I am content as to where I am and I feel that I took the right steps in my career. I made some money and was able to share these experiences with my family and friends.”

Now that he is back in Denmark, a home away for home due to his wife being from the country, Bowlin sees that the game of basketball has really made strides which very much excites him and the possibilities that may arise also in his post playing career.

Skyler Bowlin – Photo Credit: FIBA

“I thought about what I would want to do after my playing career is over and I take a lot of pride in building the game in Denmark. My son may want to play and I love seeing the game grow which it has a lot since 2012. It has grown and I can help it grow as well.”

“I think there is so much room for growth and basketball is just scratching the surface. Iffe Lundberg gave basketball in Denmark a huge bump when he went to the NBA and now the Euroleague. He is a huge ambassador as well as the other guys. There is a lot of young talent and basketball is the fastest growing sport in the country but once you get to a certain age there isn’t much place to grow. That is something that I would like to see change.”

With such close ties to Denmark, it would have been natural for Bowlin to potentially play for the country as a naturalized citizen, however, he explains that this unfortunately was never an option.

“They won’t naturalize a player in Denmark as sport has no priority in the Danish culture. I am sure that the thought to naturalize a player has never crossed their minds. I would have loved to have played for Denmark and I would have been there, but now it’s kind of towards the end of my career and it wouldn’t make much sense for the federation.”

Skyler Bowlin – Photo Credit: FIBA

With the big rematch coming up against Jerusalem, Bowlin is content with the situation with Bakken Bears and feels that despite the last second defeat they have a good chance to turn the tables.

“On the court has been a bit tough but Bakken try to do everything the right way and it’s the most professional club in Scandinavia. It’s great to be here and play and they have a clear vision and goal. It’s a huge challenge and they are in rhythm plus they added Brandon Brown. They are playing quite better than the first time, but we are ready and we have to fight and compete and then we will see what happens. I can tell you this, everyone in the locker-room believes that we can win.”

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