The duo has accounted for just 89 points during their careers and 16 this season, but that’s irrelevant. “They’re good basketball players and they help us in practice running our scout teams,” coach Mike Hopkins said.
Alaska Airlines Arena usually erupts into cheers when fan favorites Dan Kingma and Greg Bowman enter at the end of games for mop-up duty in blowout victories.
On Saturday afternoon, the Washington men’s basketball team backups — a walk-on and a former walk-on — will no doubt receive one last roaring ovation from Husky fans during a pregame ceremony recognizing the team’s only seniors.
“I’ve got mixed emotions right now,” Bowman said. “Every since my freshman year I’ve been looking forward to this day to be able to say I made it all four years.”
The duo has accounted for just 89 points during their careers and 16 this season, but that’s irrelevant.
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“They’re good basketball players and they help us in practice running our scout teams,” coach Mike Hopkins said. “It’s one of the most important things that we do all year. It’s really prepared us, especially early in the year.
“I’m really going to miss those two. What they’ve given us in invaluable.”
Everyone loves walk-ons and Hopkins has an affinity for his departing seniors.
“They’re all about team,” he said. “Think about the amount of time and hours that they’re giving. They love being part of a team.”
One of Hopkins’ favorite stories from this storybook season is about an offseason conditioning drill in which players had to run up and down a hill.
“There’s 4-5 guys vomiting all over the place and then there’s Danny and G-Bo looking like Navy SEALs,” Hopkins said. “Their approach, if you ask any player, is it’s not about ego. It’s about team and effort.
“They’re the perfect ambassadors for what our standard is to be as a student-athlete here at the University of Washington. They’re just different guys.”
Bowman, a 6-foot-7 forward, averaged 18.3 points as a senior at Mountlake Terrace High in 2013-14. After high school, he emailed former Husky assistant Brad Jackson and asked if he could walk on at UW.
“He invited me to some open gyms and I came to a couple at the end of summer in August,” Bowman said. “I guess they went well because they told me they wanted me to be part of the team.”
Bowman tallied a career high eight points as a sophomore during a 104-67 win over Penn in 2015, but his favorite Husky memory came in a game when he stayed on the bench.
“The high point for me was when we beat Arizona and Kansas earlier this year,” said Bowman, a communications major. “That was probably one of the most exciting experiences I’ve had playing basketball and I didn’t even play in the games. I was just having the time of my life cheering my teammates on from the bench.”
Kingma’s last regular-season game closes a chapter on the sports-oriented Mill Creek family with deep ties to Washington. His oldest sister Kristi was a two-time all-conference player for the UW women’s basketball team.
And his twin sister Kelli also played hoops at Washington, but injuries forced her to medically retire before this season.
Kingma, a 5-10 guard who starred at Jackson High where he averaged 18.4 points as a senior, had plans to attend a small Division I school before family members convinced him to walk on at UW.
“I hadn’t really thought about it and after I thought about it, it seemed like a great situation,” Kingma said. “I’m really glad I ended up doing it because it’s the best route that I could have taken.”
Kingma played sparingly in seven games as a freshman before injuries pushed him in the rotation for the final three games of the 2014-15 season.
His best game is also his most painful memory. He tallied nine points – all in the first half – on three three-pointers against Stanford in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament.
Leading 69-68 with 29 seconds left, Kingma missed the first of a 1-and-1 free throw situation before the Cardinal won the game 71-69 with a last-second three-pointer.
“It was like. ‘geez, did I really lose us the game and we’re done with the season now,’ ” Kingma said. “That’s a lot to go through as a freshman walk-on. But basketball is basketball. It’s not like I was trying to miss the free throw. My teammates and coaches believed in me.”
That summer, Romar awarded Kingma a scholarship making him the first UW walk-on to receive a scholarship since Will Conroy in 2001.
There were times early in their freshman season when Kingma and Bowman thought they made a mistake to walk on at Washington.
Bowman, who still lives with his mom and commutes every day from Mountlake Terrace, said he had thoughts about leaving the team after his freshman year.
“Before the season, we were really grinding and I wasn’t used to that schedule coming out of high school,” Bowman who lives with his mother and commutes daily from Mountlake Terrace. “I was thinking this is tough, this may not be for me and I don’t know if I can do it all four years. That was probably the low point.”
In addition to the grueling schedule, walk-ons don’t receive the financial benefits or playing time that goes to teammates.
“You go into it thinking, I’ll be fine not playing and you know why you’re not playing, but that doesn’t make it easy,” Kingma said. “Even if you know that maybe there’s guys better than me on the team, it’s not like that makes it easy to sit on the bench.
“The role of a walk-on is to be selfless nd hard-working. You got to bring energy everyday whether you feel it or not. You have to really got to love where you’re at and what you’re doing because it’s hard a lot of time. But if you really do love it, that’s what it takes. It’s not easy.”
Bowman admits he may not have made it without Kingma’s support.
“I’m happy that I made it, but I’m also a little sentimental,” he said. “Looking back on all that I’ve been through with (Kingma), we’ve had our ups and downs. There’s been good times and some bad times. But it’s just been a great experience.”