Brotherly Connection: Fowlers Lead Byrnes to Top of Region
With about four seconds to go in the first half of an early-season game against Rock Hill, Byrnes senior Will Fowler grabbed a rebound underneath his own basket. Before the ball even hit his hands, the Rebels point guard was off and running behind the defense. With one dribble, Will lobbed it forward to the opposing free-throw line looking for one more chance at points before halftime.
Three seconds after the rebound was secured, that freshman guard, his younger brother Colt, gathered at the free throw line and was able to turn and get the ball in the air before the buzzer sounded in an instant. Swish. The head coach, also Will and Colt’s dad Layne Fowler, gave a little shrug and smile. Halftime score, Byrnes 47, Rock Hill 27. It turned into a 38 point win.
“You could just see the connection,” Layne said looking back on the moment. “It was a brotherly connection, which was very cool.”
Alongside two of his sons, Will and Colt, Layne has the Rebels at the top of the region standings headed into the final stretch of regular season play and eying a deep playoff run. Senior wing Will and freshman guard Colt have been two pieces of a dynamic rotation that sits at 18-4 and 4-0 in Region 2-5A. For the trio, it has been a long time coming to see all three on the court at the same time.
With Will and Colt three years apart, they have never played on the same team before this season with the Byrnes Rebels. It was a long road to get here, especially for Will who freakishly broke the same foot twice in a two week stretch and missed nearly a full year to recover.
“I’ll be honest it was hard,” Layne said. “Mentally it was hard on him…I think it has made him a better player and person.”
Layne recognizes just how important having him back has been for the team this year, and it has shown on the floor. Will leads the team in scoring at just about 20 points per game, including a 41 point explosion in a win over TL Hanna in early January.
“[An injury] teaches you patience, and to cherish the time you are healthy,” Layne said.
For Colt, his path this season hasn’t been quite as straight-forward as his older brother. As long as Will is healthy and playing at the level he is, he starts. Colt had to come off the bench early, but through his strong play has convinced more than just his dad that he belongs in the starting five.
“In June, I told him real bluntly, you are not going to play varsity just because I’m your dad,” Layne said.
It was a conversation between Layne and his captains, Will and senior guard Kayzzin McDowell, after a loss to one of the other top teams in the area that prompted the change.
“After the second Riverside loss, Will and I had a pretty long conversation about how stagnant we were offensively and he said ‘Dad, have you considered putting Colt in the starting lineup?’” Layne recalls. “I told him that I have and wanted to ask you and Kayzzin [McDowell] about that as well, and he said ‘Dad, I think it’s time.’”
Since the switch the Rebels have taken off, going 14-1 with Colt in the starting lineup. Byrnes secured wins over Dorman on the road for the first time in Layne’s tenure, Greer, TL Hanna, Catawba Ridge, and Gaffney all since mid-December.
“They’re having a ball out there and it’s a ton of fun,” Layne said.
The chemistry shown in that Rock Hill moment hasn’t just popped up after 20 games of playing together on the same team. About seven years ago the Fowler’s built a court at their home, and all the hours spent getting shots up on that court have paid off for this special season together.
“They’ve had some battles out there [on the home court],” Layne said. “We push them and I coach them hard, but I coach Kayzzin McDowell hard, I coach all of these guys hard, and I think in the long run that helps them.”
Layne sees Colt’s growth this season from a player that came off the bench overthinking the game in front of him, into an improved defender that is just going out and playing his game. It all culminated in a double-double in the win at Dorman, scoring 16 points and dishing 10 assists in a 24-point win.
“Did I know he would be starting for us? No, but he earned that and it has proven,” Layne said. “He has a trust level with Will…and his teammates have his back.”
As for Layne, he admits that he doesn’t step back enough to take it all in. In a season where Byrnes still has plenty of goals still in front of it, it’s going to take more than just the Fowlers to accomplish them. But this season has been a dream come true and Layne doesn’t take a day of it for granted.
“I’ve always wanted to coach them,” Layne said. “I feel super blessed that the Lord has allowed me to do that.”
Layne recognizes that it can be scary to look at the schedule and see the games starting to dwindle and become less certain heading into the playoffs. However, as Coach and as Dad, he takes a little wisdom from none other than Ferris Bueller himself to savor what is remaining of a special season for not just Byrnes, but the Fowler family.
“Sometimes it’s nice to step back and realize life is fast, and just to enjoy the moments.”