EAST LANSING ---- Lisa Bowen really can't recall the first time she became aware of her daughter's strong will.
She remembered the young girl in middle school who brazenly declared she would play in the WNBA one day but Lisa couldn't remember the exact moment or age when her daughter's focus and mental toughness kicked in to high gear to make that dream a possibility.
All Lisa, her husband Terry and the rest of the residents of Dansville know is that Lindsay Bowen, a four-year starter at Michigan State and the program's second all-time leading scorer (1,738 points), now lists professional basketball player on her resume.
Lindsay Bowen, a 5-foot-7 reserve guard for the WNBA's New York Liberty, returns to her home state tonight with the rest of her Big Apple teammates for a 7:30 p.m. showdown at the Palace of Auburn Hills against the reigning WNBA champion Detroit Shock.
Bowen, in her first season in the league, is expected to be on the bench, but not in street clothes. She wears No. 30 Liberty now and will be ready to come off the bench and play in front what her mother says will be a small but extremely supportive contingent from the rural community outside of Lansing.
Chances are, whether Lindsay gets much, if any, playing time tonight, she will go out with her family afterwards for dinner and a catch-up session.
The subject that won't need to be broached is all of the effort it took to get there. All of those additional hours in the gym, all of those early morning workouts, all of the sacrifices a small town athlete like Lindsay Bowen made to be in the position she is today.
One of those sacrifices included leaving her comfort zone to travel overseas to improve her skills after being cut by the Liberty at the end of training camp two years ago.
The staff gave Lindsay instructions regarding what she needed to do to make the team. She obviously followed them to the letter.
"Pretty much just to go overseas, get some experience, get a lot of playing in, get a little bit stronger,'' said Bowen, who is stands to make $32,400 in her first season. "So that's what I did. I went overseas, got better and (when) I came back I felt more comfortable this year.''
Even with that comfort zone, there was no guarantee of making the team.
Remember, this is the same league where former Spartan Kelli Roehrig was taken aside by a coach during the WNBA Pre-Draft Camp two seasons ago and told that if she lost a 'significant' amount of weight that maybe she could play in the league some day.
With those instructions in hand, Bowen and Roehrig landed in Sweden, playing games once a week for a club team but practicing nearly every day.
After the season in Scandinavia, Roehrig, who had lost the weight she was urged to during Pre-Draft Camp, called it quits, while Bowen headed off to Switzerland to further improve her chances of making it as a pro in her own country.
Lindsay Bowen wasn't quite ready to abandon her pursuits.
"Everything happens for a reason, it was my dream and I didn't ever want to give up on that,'' Bowen said. "So, I was going to keep fighting and keep working until I made a team.''
Upon her return, she earned another tryout with the Liberty, an organization that was now pursuing a youth movement, cutting or trading away most of its veteran players.
A good sign for the former All-Big Ten performer who was just two seasons removed from college play.
With an even higher determination, Bowen was able to show the Liberty staff that her game was worthy of a roster spot and Terry and Lisa Bowen finally were able to get that NBA TV package on their cable bill.
"I just came into training camp with the mindset to work hard, do what I can do and good things will happen,'' Lindsay said. "I wasn't going to try and do too much. I was just going to try and play my game and show them what I can do. I think that helped."
Although Lisa was worried about her daughter realizing her dream, there may have been a clue to Lindsay's fate when the team's blog, written by assistant Nick Dipillo on May 3, two days before the preseason even started, stated that "point guard Lindsay Bowen, who we had in training camp last year, has also returned with much improvement from a year ago, and will be competing for minutes in our backcourt.''
Lindsay actually found out an hour before the first preseason game that she had made the team but was not able to tell her parents until the next day. Her mother's reaction was obviously one of pride but there was more.
"For me, all I could think about was, this is a dream this young lady has had since she was in middle school and how amazing for a parent who has a child that has a passion, who is willing to work hard and do whatever it takes to make that passion and that dream come true,'' Lisa Bowen said. "How many people can say they've have fulfilled that dream and that passion and they're actually getting paid for that. Even if it's a short period of time that she ends up playing (in the) WNBA, she's at least fulfilled that dream and to me, she now knows that there isn't anything, anything that you could put in front of her and that she wouldn't be able to do it.''
Bowen sat on the bench in street clothes for the first 10 games of the season. On a WNBA roster, you can carry 13 players but only 11 can be active.
Although disappointed about not being able to play, Bowen continued showing she was ready to step in and perform whenever she was needed. He chance came on June 22 against San Antonio. With a player placed on injured reserve and another serving a brief suspension, Bowen was activated.
In her first game, as a starter no less, she played 17 minutes and 8 seconds, went 2-for-5 from the floor (2-of-3 from beyond the arc) and committed just one turnover.
Since then, she has seen action in the last four games.
Her stats ---- 6.8 minutes per game, 1.8 points, 0.2 rebounds and 0.2 assists ----- don't really garner notice but that jersey on her back does.
She is now the fourth former Spartan earning a check doing something they love, joining Okemos' Kristen Rasmussen (Connecticut), Mason's Kristin Haynie (Sacramento) and Liz (Shimek)Moeggenberg (Chicago).
Whether she sticks in the league or not, the fact that she's even sitting on a WNBA bench means there truly is a reward for perseverance and belief.
She even has a message for all of those girls who may not be good enough, may have doubts or gave in to negative feedback.
"Have fun with what you're doing, always go 110 percent because when you work hard great things are going to happen,'' Bowen said. "I still have the motto "dream big," You've got to go with that, shoot for the stars."
Or just the opponent's basket.