By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Skyler Bowlin’s professional basketball career has taken a step forward.
Bowlin, former All-American guard at Missouri Southern, has signed with the Welser Basketball Club in Wels, Austria — one of 11 teams in the Austrian Professional Basketball League.
“I signed a contract about a month ago and have been waiting for them to go public with it,” Bowlin said Tuesday night. “Their (general manager) has been on vacation and hadn’t gotten around to making it official. I talked to my coach and he said I could announce it.
“It’s good, a nice step in the right direction on the basketball ladder over there. This is better competition, more professional ... they put more money into it. They allow five imports on a team. In Denmark they allow two. This is the best move for me career-wise.”
Bowlin’s road to Austria began when he contacted the team’s new head coach.
“The coach (Philip Dejworek) was in Denmark coaching the top team, the two-time defending champion,” Bowlin said. “His team lost two games midway through the season, and he got fired. His record is something like 109-11 in three years, and they let him go midway through the season.
“After the season, I was looking around on websites, seeing where coaches and players are going. I saw this coach had signed a contract in Austria, looked him up on Facebook and sent him a message ... hope you remember me, I saw you got the job in Austria and if you don’t have all your Americans yet, I’d love to talk to you and play for you if possible. He messaged me back, we talked on the phone a couple of times. He talked with his GM and they decided to give me an offer. I got lucky on how everything worked out.”
This will be Bowlin’s fourth team since his senior season at Missouri Southern when the Lions won the 2011 MIAA regular-season championship and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. He played in Germany in the winter of 2011, Australia last summer and Denmark last winter.
Bowlin averaged 18.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 3.0 steals and 3.0 turnovers last season for Horsens IC in Denmark, which lost a best-of-five semifinal series 3-2 to the eventual league champion.
“It was a heartbreaker,” Bowlin said. “We were up 2-1, they were the two-time defending champions and we had them on the ropes. Those last two games, they had more than we did.”
Bowlin, who’s in Joplin this month working on finishing his degree, shot 52 percent from the field, 43 percent from 3-point range and 88 percent from the foul line last season. He won a 3-point shooting contest at the league’s all-star game.
“I’m very happy with the year I had,” Bowlin said. “I had the ball in my hands a lot. The coach was a great, great teacher, and he threw me the reins and said go run the team.”
The other American on Horsens IC was Keane Thomann, Bowlin’s former teammate at MSSU. Thomann averaged 18.0 points and 7.6 rebounds and joined Bowlin on the all-star team.
“Keane started off the year on fire,” Bowlin said. “Midway through the year he was not playing as good as he was at the beginning, but in the last third of the season and in the playoffs, he was our best player. He dominated the last part of the season.
“Keane is going back (to Horsens IC). I loved where I was at. I would have stayed there forever if it had been right for me career-wise.”
Welser BC finished fourth in the league last year.
“Austria (basketball league) is the middle level,” Bowlin said, comparing European leagues. “Denmark, Norway, Iceland are probably the lower-level competition. The highest leagues are Spain, France, Italy, Turkey, Germany, with Spain the highest.”