Even though Jordan Cowgill had a height advantage against opposing post players in nearly every game last season, the junior center for the Thomas Worthington High School boys basketball team wasn't able to accumulate an abundance of points or rebounds because he often was outmuscled by shorter, stronger players.
As a result, Cowgill averaged only 5.0 points and 3.3 rebounds last season, as the Cardinals finished 5-15 overall, marking the second-worst season under Bob Miller, who is in his 28th season.
"Jordan was tall, but he wasn't as quick or as big, physically, last year, and he definitely struggled at times with catching the ball," Miller said. "When Jordan didn't catch the ball, it made our players hesitant to pass it to him for fear that he wouldn't catch it or that they would get blamed for making a bad pass."
A year later, the 6-foot-10, 265-pound Cowgill has emerged as the team's leading scorer and rebounder. Through 12 games, he was averaging 12.6 points and 8.5 rebounds, as the Cardinals were 7-5 overall and 4-4 in the OCC-Central Division before playing Hilliard Davidson on Jan. 25.
"Jordan is our most improved player, and he's been our best player on many nights," Miller said. "He's bigger and stronger and he's playing with much more confidence and aggressiveness. He's running the floor much better offensively and defensively, and he's improved his post moves quite a bit. He has a variety of post moves, depending on how he's getting defended."
During the offseason, Cowgill lifted weights four days a week and added 15 pounds of muscle, and he began doing plyometric workouts, which included using a jump rope, leaping up onto boxes and lateral movement exercises, to improve his footwork.
Cowgill also improved his ability to catch and shoot the ball while playing for the Hidden Gems AAU basketball team U-17 team last summer.
"When I was younger, I was weak, inexperienced and not very mobile, and my biggest problem was getting muscled out of position," Cowgill said. "But I'm a lot stronger in my legs and lower body now, and I've got better hands and quicker feet, so I'm not losing the ball as much as I used to. Once I get the ball, I've got better post moves to score with."
Cowgill scored a career-high 18 points in a 49-40 victory over Worthington Kilbourne on Jan. 14. He played well defensively in that game, too, helping to hold 6-7 Wolves senior center Jack Burian to two points.
Senior guard D.J. Lightfoot said Cowgill also has improved his ability to pass the ball to open players on the perimeter.
"We have a lot more confidence to pass Jordan the ball this year, because he's learned to catch it and score," Lightfoot said. "When he gets double-teamed, he's also a lot better at kicking the ball back out to us so that we can shoot it."
College coaches have noticed Cowgill's improvement as well, and he's already been offered an athletic scholarship by the University of South Carolina Aiken, a Division II team.
"You can't teach tall, and Jordan definitely has the height and size that college coaches are looking for," Miller said.
Cowgill has been recruited by several Division I and II colleges since last summer and hopes to have several scholarship offers to choose from by the start of his senior season.
Before he moves on to college, however, Cowgill wants to follow in the footsteps of his twin brothers, Jarrett and Kyler, by leading the Cardinals to a Division I district championship. The Cowgill twins helped Thomas win a district title as juniors in 2007. The 2008 graduates both run cross country and track at Wittenberg University.
"My brothers have always pushed me to do well and they've been a big influence on me," Cowgill said. "I want to win a district championship and compete in a college sport just like they have. I'd love to play professional basketball someday if it's possible, but I'm going to study to become a high school teacher and basketball coach."
AT A GLANCE
Below are recent results and coming schedule for the Kilbourne and Thomas boys basketball teams:
*Jan. 21 - Defeated Hilliard Darby 49-34. Austin Parker scored 20 points and Brian Hanks scored 11.
*Jan. 25 - Played Upper Arlington
*Jan. 28 - At Westland. The Wolves defeated Westland 53-48 on Dec. 17.
Of note: The Wolves were 6-7 overall and 3-5 in the OCC-Central before Jan. 25.
*Jan. 21 - Lost to Upper Arlington 45-43. Julian Henderson and Jordan Cowgill scored 13 points apiece.
*Jan. 25 - Played Hilliard Davidson
*Jan. 28 - Home vs. Dublin Coffman. The Cardinals lost to Coffman 66-61 on Dec. 17.
Feb. 1 - Home vs. Olentangy Orange
Of note: The Cardinals were 7-5 overall and 4-4 in the OCC-Central before Jan. 25.