Instead of spending all of spring break on the beach or in the mountains, the players sprinted up and down the court, preparing for their last games of the season. As other students went to Colorado, Texas and Atlanta, senior John Brown University basketball players finished their decorated careers in Kansas City.
Josh Bowling and Jake Caudle helped lead the John Brown University men’s basketball team to play in the National tournament. The two seniors spent countless hours sprinting up and down the court, practicing jump-shots and staying healthy while attending school to receive their degrees and representing JBU athletics. Between four years of home games, road trips, afternoon practices, and hours in the gym, the duo finished with over 1,000 career points and several awards each.
Senior engineering major Jake Caudle transferred to JBU after one year at the University of Arkansas. Originally, he did not plan on playing basketball during college, but while at the U of A, he realized how much he missed playing the sport that he said helped him get rid of excess energy.
“I didn’t want to live with any major regrets and not playing basketball would have been a major regret,” Caudle said. “It was the best decision I ever made.”
Caudle’s hard work means he leaves JBU with several accolades and awards. He reached the 1,000 point club at the end of his junior year and finished his career with 1,557 points. Caudle was recognized on the Sooner Athletic Conference first team his junior and senior years. Additionally, the SAC awarded him with the sportsmanship award for the 2018-19 season.
Senior biochemistry major Josh Bowling finished his 4-year career at JBU with 2nd-team SAC honors. Bowling came to JBU after one year at Arkansas State University, where he was a red-shirt freshman. He transferred to JBU and by the end of his career, he scored 1,259 points and shot 90 percent from the free-throw line, making him the second best in the nation for NAIA Division I.
Awards such as these required sacrifice and concentration. Bowling said shooting free throws is a mental aspect of the game. “You just go up there and just let it go,” Bowling said. “You’ve got to tell yourself ‘I’m not going to be a little baby, I’m going to make it.’ I literally do that to myself every single time I get up to the line.”
Bowling said playing basketball mirrors the real-world well and has given him experiences he never would have gotten otherwise. “In basketball you’re on your team, you put in a bunch of hours, you’re trying to accomplish your goal, you’re going to face adversity, and it really prepares you well for a bunch of things in life,” Bowling said. “Basketball transcends the game you play. It’s your teammates, it’s your fans, it’s your support system.”
Throughout their four years, both seniors said they could not have made it as far as they did without the teams and coaches they met along the way.
“The biggest blessing by far that those awards can show me is how great of a team that I really have surrounding me and how great of a coaching staff that I have around me. The coaches especially are always encouraging,” Caudle said. “I couldn’t have received those awards myself. It requires the team, it requires the coaches, it requires the people in my life to receive those things, especially my parents.”
Freshman teammate Ira Perrier said that these two seniors set a great example of leadership for the team and credit their hard work as major reasons the team made it as far as they did.
“I’ve never seen two people get to the gym so early for practice. I thought turning up 15 minutes before practice was okay, but you see Jake in the gym before practice an hour early, getting ready in the training room … and the same with Josh … it’s actually incredible.”
“For both of them, basketball is about more than basketball,” Perrier said. “It’s about becoming a man and being a man. And they’re both doing that.”
Even when they are exhausted from the mentally-challenging day of school or constant grind on the court, both Caudle and Bowling said they found ways to push through the tiredness and succeed.
“One of the best phrases or mottos that I try to live by now is ‘be comfortable being uncomfortable,’” Caudle said. “When it comes to basketball, it’s easy to quit when you’re tired, it’s easy to stop shooting when your arms don’t feel good or when your legs don’t feel good. It’s easy to forget a couple of reps or set when you’re working out. Those are all the easy routes, but those don’t get you better. The people that can be comfortable being uncomfortable, that push through the adversity that it brings you, that push through the tiredness, that push through the soreness, push through the rainy days where you don’t feel like going outside or working out, are really going to benefit. And you’re going to gain so much more not only in your physical abilities but in your mental abilities.”
Bowling motivates himself with the phrase “you’ve got to fake it ‘til you make it.” Bowling said, “We’re all human, there’s a lot of days I go in, there like ‘nah, I don’t want to be here.’ … I don’t want to go super hard that day. I know since I’m a team leader other guys will follow what I do. You just got to go in there and you start yelling and you start clapping until you feel it yourself.”
Junior Quintin Bailey said that their unique leadership styles complemented each other and brought a great dynamic to the team.
“Jake is more of a verbal, energy guy. He comes every day bringing energy which is good for the team … You can’t help but get hyped up when you got a guy who’s playing to give that much,” Bailey said. “[Josh] will literally say a few words but you know what he means …He’s got a lot of advice, and he’s got a high basketball I.Q. He really knows the game, so he’s kind of like the coach on the court.”
No matter if they are playing basketball or studying for school, Perrier said they are both great people.
“Yeah they’re basketball players, but they’re much better people than they are players,” Perrier said. “Jake’s one of the people who pushes me in my faith and challenges me in my beliefs, and I really appreciate that.”
The four years they spent representing the JBU Golden Eagles gave Caudle and Bowling much more than four more years of basketball—it gave them teammates, friends, coaches, mentors and memories.
“The past four years have been very cultivating and forming for my life and years to come, “Caudle said. “[The JBU] community does make a difference … They are like brothers to me, really authentic and intentional with their actions and their heart for the Lord … Instead of trying to take personal pride [in my awards and past four years], I’m trying to show how God is glorified through all these things and how I’m just a means in the use of his glory.”