After each match, the Elon men’s basketball team leaves the game on the court, putting it in the back of their minds until the next practice. But graduate students Sean Halloran and John Bowen III return to their apartment and rewatch footage, analyzing each pass and decision.
Their shared dream of one day coaching in the NBA fuels their post-game ritual. The two first played together at Belmont Abbey College, where they were trained by men’s basketball head coach Billy Taylor. When presented the opportunity to reunite at Elon for the 2022-23 season, both said it was an easy decision.
“It was a no-brainer to finish how I started — with coach Taylor and Sean,” Bowen said. “It’s almost surreal. I never thought I would get the chance to do this again.”
While it was always a part of Halloran’s plan, Bowen didn’t even consider returning to school after graduating. He had entered the real world for a year, working as a youth director at a church, coaching junior leagues on the side. But he couldn’t help but feel as if something was missing.
“I had lost my love for the game,” Bowen said. “And I really started to regret my decision.”
The two first met during Halloran’s freshman year at Belmont Abbey in 2018. Despite Bowen being his RA, the connection was instant. They soon realized their shared interests and aspirations, quickly growing close.
“He was always more of a brother than authority figure,” Halloran said. “It was funny to see this giant 6’9 goofball at the Abbey. There were all these monks and nuns on campus — and then I was sharing a suite with John.”
But after one season, both Taylor and Bowen left Halloran and the Abbey behind. Taylor returned to his previous position as assistant coach at University of Iowa. Bowen transferred to University of North Carolina at Wilmington for the remainder of his collegiate career, graduating in 2021.
While their time as teammates was short lived, their friendship was not.
“It was hard losing both of them,” Halloran said. “They were my favorite part of the Abbey. But we always stayed in contact. John and I would text sometimes and watch each other play every once in a while.”
Halloran and Bowen were reunited at Taylor’s first press conference as head coach at Elon. After being recruited by their former coach, neither knew that the offer had been extended to the other. The meeting solidified their decision to accept.
“The entire coaching staff and Sean have been like family.” Bowen said. “Playing here, with them, at the DI level is a dream come true.”
Halloran and Bowen said they have been inseparable since, spending just about every waking moment together. In addition to sharing an apartment, they have the same practice and class schedule. Both are receiving their master’s degree in business analytics with plans to pursue coaching careers. The two say the arrangement is mutually beneficial as they support one another in every realm of their lives.
“I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else,” Halloran said. “We’re really close, but he’s a super smart guy. We study together and give each other pointers on our game — we really just push each other to be our best.”
On the court, Halloran and Bowen’s dynamic transfers to their roles of point guard and forward respectively. Even in the middle of a play, Halloran and Bowen will be calculating the necessary steps to achieve a victory. They both said with just a look, they can communicate what they need from one another. Knowing Taylor’s coaching style allows them to play how he wants and act as leaders for their younger teammates.
“We want to be role models for them,” Bowen said. “It’s about getting out of your head and looking at the bigger picture rather than your own stats. We’ve both learned that and want to make sure they know it too.”
Halloran said they have both grown as players and individuals since last playing together. They’re more selfless in their decisions, and have begun looking at the game through the view of coaches in addition to being players.
“It’s teaching me how to teach others,” Halloran said. “I just want to help build the basketball program back up. There’s a lot of potential there.”
Bowen said he has high expectations for the future of the men’s basketball team under Taylor’s leadership. Despite a rough start for the team, both he and Halloran are optimistic that the coach will turn the season around.
“The guy is a basketball guru,” Bowen said. “He cares about his players and wants us to be our best. I have full confidence that we can pull off something great.”
Looking back, Halloran and Bowen both said they are grateful for the opportunity to play at Elon and have no reservations about their decision. After losing a year to the pandemic, it’s the conclusion they’ve been searching for.
“Being here, it’s brought my love for the game back,” Bowen said. “It’s funny how life comes full circle. Doing what I love with who I love — it’s all ending how it should have. It was meant to be.”