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NORTH FORSYTH — The North Forsyth girls basketball team reached unprecedented heights last season, doing so in large part thanks to the efforts of Caroline Bowns.
The guard/forward helped the Lady Raiders go a school-record 28-3, win the Region 6-AAAAAA championship and reach the Class AAAAAA Elite Eight.
Bowns led the team in scoring (15 points per game) and blocks (26) and was second in rebounding (5 per game), assists (2.4 per game) and steals (2 per game) en route to all-county and all-Region 6-AAAAAA honors.
But now, Bowns is ready to set a new standard at Coal Mountain.
Through June, she practiced every weekday with her North teammates and head coach Eric Herrick.
There aren’t many differences between in-season and offseason workouts, but the summer months allow teams the chance to focus on the big picture rather than the next day.
Bowns, who has evolved into a leader for North, is embracing this opportunity.
“As of right now, I’m just trying to work really hard in the weight room and on the court,” she said. “Practices for me, I’m taking them very seriously because I know this is my last summer before I decide where I continue playing.”
The offseason work includes fine-tuning some aspects of her game. Bowns has been told she needs to get stronger, so she’s spent a lot of time in the weight room.
She also hopes to develop her mid-range jumper, and has put many hours into refining that skill.
“We just try to pick the things I need to work on and do that now,” she said. “That way, when the season starts, hopefully I’ll improve in those areas.”
To raise her mid-range shooting percentage, Bowns has taken thousands of shots — often using a shooter machine to feed her the ball at a rapid pace. Away from the hardwood, Lady Raiders assistant coach Brad Kudlas is getting her in better shape.
The program Kudlas uses has quickly paid dividends.
“At first, it felt weird. I would shoot and it would be longer,” Bowns said of her increased strength. “I can tell I’m getting stronger. When I drive to the basket I don’t get stripped as easily. My passes have gotten more accurate … I think it’s helping my game improve.
“I’m really working hard now so that way when I get to college it’s not a huge surprise that it’s harder than it is now.”
Indeed, the collegiate ranks are in Bowns’ sights, and she understands her performance over the next six months likely will determine where she ends up.
Through July, Bowns will be playing for an AAU team, which gives her an outlet to showcase her talents in front of potential college suitors. Although AAU competition doesn’t have many of the perks of high school ball — namely, the team camaraderie — it does serve a purpose.
“It’s very different [from high school],” she said. “It’s a little more nerve-wracking knowing there’s 50 coaches sitting at the end of your game, watching you and making sure you’re not messing up.”
Though expectations are at an all-time high, Bowns doesn’t plan on letting the pressure get to her. Rather, she’s going to keep working hard and have fun.
“For the most part, I just want to enjoy it,” she said. “AAU is very stressful, but I’m just going to try to have fun with it and remember what I’m going to miss when it’s over.
“I just hope we, as a team, get another region championship [at North] and make the state playoffs. I just want to keep improving every single day I can as a player.”