After trying out for Seton Hall's basketball team the third straight year as a walk-on — his first two attempts were unsuccessful — Dowdy spent a month glancing at his phone while the Pirates' coaching staff determined whether they'd have a spot for him.
Finally, before this season began, the junior got the call from Smyth, a former Pirates player and the program's current coordinator of basketball operations, telling him he'd made the club.
"I was at a loss for words," said Dowdy, an Austin native and Lab Schools graduate. "It was something I had always been working for. I was praying that all the hard work I had put in would be rewarded."
Senior Editor Justin Breen talks about all the hard work put in by Michael Dowdy.
Said Smyth: "Mike has worked really hard the last three years to accomplish his dream and it was a privilege to be able to tell him that we wanted to bring him aboard."
But seeing time on the court was never the point for Dowdy, who has always wanted to be part of a Division I roster — in any capacity.
"It's all for the love of the game," he said. "I decided to never stop until I got what I wanted."
That's why for the last three summers, Dowdy endured rigorous workouts with his older cousin, Jonathan Dowdy, at Concordia University's athletic complex. One hundred-plus times a day, Dowdy would run up the school's 30-step bleachers and sprint on the track. Jonathan Dowdy said he also stressed a "holistic" approach to this summer's workouts.
"This included mentally having positive dialect, using language that empowered him to compete," said Jonathan Dowdy, a former basketball player and graduate of Providence St. Mel and Bates College. "I'm more impressed with how he continually responded to the adversity of not making the team with a greater sense of self awareness and passion for the game. I think it's a story of having tremendous faith and executing that faith in spite of obstacles that may exist."
Dowdy is scheduled to graduate next year with a degree in chemistry. Before basketball, he was taking as many as 18 credit hours a semester. Since he's joined the team, he's reduced those hours to 14. His class schedule includes organic chemistry, analytic chemistry, calculus and U.S. history.
Dowdy, who's minoring in criminal justice, plans to work as a forensic or arson investigator. Lab Schools athletic director David Ribbens said Dowdy's ability to persevere through adversity "will suit him well in his pursuit of a career."
And Dowdy said he's proud to represent the West Side of Chicago on college basketball's biggest stage.
"Guys like me from back home don't get these opportunities all the time," he said. "I'm just really blessed to be in this position. I'm just glad all the hard work I put in paid off."
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