SHERIDAN — Tristan Bower’s role a year ago encompassed coming off the bench and spelling All-State point guard Coy Steele. That role has since shifted.
In fact, it has flipped.
The junior point guard now starts, initiates the offense and scores — a lot.
During the Broncs’ first action of the season this past weekend at the Fremont Motors of Casper Invitational, Bowers stole the show for Sheridan, which went 3-1 in its four games. His breakout play may have even shocked Bowers himself, but not his head coach.
“I wasn’t surprised at all,” Sheridan boys head basketball coach Jeff Martini said. “… The way he was attacking practice and the open gyms, he just kind of has a different look about him.”
The scoreline for Bower over the weekend reflected that. Bower — who averaged 2.7 points per game as a sophomore — tallied a combined 88 points in four games, which included a 26-point starting debut Thursday and a 36-point outburst in a frantic comeback effort against Evanston Friday.
“My shots were hitting and it was nice,” Bower said. “My teammates were getting me good looks off passes, screens and handoffs, whatever. I just kind of executed off those.”
Bower played in 20 of the Broncs’ 23 games during the 2016-17 season. In most cases, he played two quarters of junior varsity before suiting up and subbing in whenever Steele needed a breather.
A role player. That was Bower in a nutshell.
“He’d give us a spark offensively, and he did a lot of things that we asked of him,” Martini said. “His role was pretty limited last year as a sophomore.”
And that is more than understandable. Steele — who also won Gatorade Player of the Year honors in football and now competes for Division I FCS Montana State — started at point guard and averaged 9.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.3 steals per game. Bower simply couldn’t provide Sheridan with anything that Steele couldn’t.
As a result, Bower utilized his limited minutes off the bench to acclimate to the varsity ranks, hone his skills and brace for a bigger role he saw on the horizon.
“I knew coming into this year that I would have to play probably the starting one, and I knew I had some pretty big shoes to fill,” Bower said. “I just worked hard over the offseason and increased my game.”
Bower logged countless hours in the weight room and laid claim to being the only player on the roster that recorded 15,000 shots during the month of July — a lofty goal Martini set, not knowing if anyone would even get close.
That workload lent itself to a big weekend where Bower averaged 22 points per game and led the team in scoring in three of the four contests. He put up impressive offensive numbers, but his effect on the game didn’t stop there. Bower captained an offense that averaged more than 65 points per game.
“He’s extremity good at handling the ball, but what’s not seen — and everybody kind of knows about his scoring — is he passed the ball exceptionally well,” Martini said. “He sees the floor well, he handles the ball extremely well and his shooting percentage was great throughout the weekend.
“He’s overall a hard kid to guard, and a hard kid to matchup with. His strength, once he gets by people, is getting to the rim, and his ability to finish kind of sets him apart.”
The impressive offensive resume, however, left Bower a little gassed on the other end of the floor. Martini would like to see his point guard improve defensively but both Bower and Martini understand there’s plenty of time to do that.
For the time being, though, the Broncs will take the offense — no complaints.