The way Jackson Panthers AAU coach Chokwe Lumumba sees it, the University of Arkansas is getting yet another prize from the state of Mississippi.
Cyrus McGowan, a 6-9, 235-pound power forward from Meridian, is the third player from that state to choose the University of Arkansas in two years.
He follows in the footsteps of Jackson's Charles Thomas and Prentiss' Al Jefferson, who ended up being a first-round draft pick of the Boston Celtics.
""Because of his academic prowess, his good sense, his great character and his skill on the court, I think he is a great get for Arkansas," Lumumba said. "You've got to take into account the fact that it is his stated desire to go all four years and get his degree and that's not going to change. So they get a kid that is going to get there, be there for four years and be just fabulous when he leaves."
McGowan said he chose Arkansas over Mississippi State and Georgia Tech because it is the right place a the right time.
""Actually during my visit I had an idea that Arkansas was where I was going to end up after finding out everything about them," McGowan said. "But I wanted to go back home, think it over and pray on it as I did. It just stood out. It's the place I feel like I need to be."
Florence McGowan, Cyrus' mom and one of nine Mississippi State alums in his family, knows the decision won't be very popular within the state or her family.
"There are going to be a lot of upset people in Mississippi, including members of my own family," Mrs. McGowan said. "But they all have to realize it's not about them, it's what's best for my son."
Young Cyrus says what's best is for him to be a Razorback.
"There were a couple of shocked people, but if they have been to Arkansas and saw what I did they would understand," McGowan said. "They have just great facitlities, great coaches, great players, great fans and great place to get an education."
It's clear that the basketball side and the academic side worked hand-in-hand in landing McGowan for Arkansas, a place he visited last weekend after visiting the other two schools in early September.
"I was so very impressed with the coaches and the basketball department at Arkansas," Mrs. McGowan said. "Not only do they have a great handle on their on court situations, but what impressed me the most was the fact that they so stress the academic side of things. I like the fact they have one academic guy and an assistant who are totally in charge of the basketball players."
Mrs. McGowan especially praised the efforts of UA assistant Oronde Taliaferro.
"I tell you one thing that impressed me in that regard about Arkansas," Mrs. McGowan said. "They went over everything within the architecture department and we met with professors. But I was also impressed with Coach O and the extra effort he put into that. He made a very in-depth presentation on the architecture program as well as the civil engineering one. It's clear they are willing to go the extra step for my son to achieve his academic goals as well as his athletic ones.
"It's not that the other schools didn't have great programs and didn't make good presentations, but Coach O's was just exceptional and that just tells you how much they really care about the person as a whole," Mrs. McGowan said."
Lumumba, who has coached McGowan for the last year-and-a-half in AAU competition, is enamored with the big fella.
"Cyrus is the prototype power forward for the college level," Coach Lumumba said. "He runs the kid extremely well for a kid that is 6-9 and over 230 pounds, is a great rebounder and is the type of guy who can shoot the ball and score, but is just going to be get better and better offensively."
"He is the kind of guy that is going to play alongside and make a young center better because he moves so well laterally to the boards and moves so aggressively to get them," Lumumba said. "There will be teams he will just dominate on the boards against."
"He is such a solid player, a guy who rebounds with a passion and is a great shot blocker, as if Arkansas needs anymore of that with Darian (Townes) and Steven Hill already there," Telep said. "It is going to be hard to get off a shot against Arkansas these next few years."
McGowan looks forward to helping out when he arrives.
"The best thing is that Coach Heath had told me he loves my intensity and that I am ahead of where most freshman are defensively and rebounding and that will get me playing time while my offense comes along."
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