Now is the time for Angelique Cowan to perform.
The Ottawa High School senior-to-be and reigning Times Girls Basketball Player of the Year is in pursuit of a Division I basketball scholarship this month.
Cowan will showcase her hardwood talents for the last time on the AAU circuit during July's NCAA Live Evaluation Period while playing for the Bourbonnais-based Example Sports Elite 17U Bullies in a handful of exposure events — a trio in Louisville (the Run 4 the Roses Classic, which tips off today; the Apache Paschall Memorial Showcase, July 8-9; and the Battle in the Boro, July 10-13) and a pair in Atlanta (the ATL Summer Slam, July 23-26; and The National Championship, July 27-29).
"It's the most important month of my whole career. I mean, it's going to decide what my future holds," Cowan said. "I'm a little nervous, but I'm more excited than anything — just really excited. I just need to relax, not let the nerves get the best of me, so I can play how I know I can play. I want to be able to go out there confident with everything I have on the court. I don't think I'm really going to change (my game), just improve it. I'm just going to (play like) I usually do. I know if I just play the way I know I can, everything will (take care of itself)."
"What I tell her," said Example Sports Elite Bullies coach Barry Bradford, "is just to be the best version of herself she can be; you know, think about those qualities that she knows that translate to the next level, and go out and emphasize those things that she knows she can do at the highest level possible."
Cowan has been hard at work in preparation for this month. For two straight weeks — four days a week for four hours — in late June, Cowan made the two-and-a-half hour round-trip to the Example Sports facility in Bourbonnais, where she trained with 19 other Division I/II prospects, a group of kids whom Bradford dubbed his "1-percenters" club because of the extra effort they put forth to obtain a scholarship.
"It's not easy. It's a lot of work, but it's going to be worth it in the long run," said Cowan, who added that she's been focusing in particular on improving her ball-handling, developing a mid-range game and learning how to create for herself offensively.
The 5-foot-7 guard does possess a couple of attributes beneficial in the collegiate ranks.
"One of the things that Angelique does as good as anybody in the country," Bradford proclaimed, "she's a great on-ball defender. And then she shoots the ball at a rate that's consistent enough to play Division I basketball. Her ball-handling is above average. Her court vision is solid; she advances the ball well.
"You've got to have at least one thing that (coaches) can depend on you for every night at that highest level, and she definitely has a couple."
Cowan's competitiveness is another plus.
"The first thing every college coach looks for is they want a kid that competes, and Angelique competes — night in and night out," Bradford said. "She competes in the toughest of environments."
Consistency is the key for Cowan.
"There are games that (Angelique) plays and she looks like a Division I basketball player," Bradford said, "and there are (other) moments ... The biggest thing for her is being consistent now, consistently present in one way, shape or form. If she does that, she's going to end up exactly where she should be."
While Cowan hasn't received an offer yet — she has garnered interest from a couple of Division I programs in New York, Canisius and Iona, per Bradford — both Bradford and Cowan believe it's only a matter of time before she inherits one.
"A couple of things happened," Bradford said in regards to Cowan's recruitment. "Three of the schools that she had interest from coming into the season all have new head coaches, so that created a new dynamic for her. ... Angelique's on a really competitive team — a power-packed roster — with elite guards who were already up on the 17U team before she got there. ... Now Angelique gets her chance to kind of move to the forefront of the recruiting process.
"I'll continue to say Angelique's going to have some great Division II options, and I would say she's going to have some great low- to mid-major Division I options when it's all said and done. I think one of the things that coaches are going to love about her — and the biggest thing — is that she's a high-character kid. And I think that (trait) of Angelique will take her just as far as her skill level will."
"It's kind of hard not to think about (not having an offer yet) just because I want to go play college basketball," Cowan admitted, "but I don't let it bother me because I know I have to be patient and understand that my time will come.
"Hopefully, I pick up a couple offers. I mean, I know I have the potential to play D-I, but it's just a matter of playing my hardest and showing (college coaches) that I can contribute to their team."