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Keystone Senior Natalie Bowser Determined to Prove Doubters Wrong and Help the Panthers to a Bounce Back Year

This is one in a series of articles highlighting some of top returning boys and girls basketball players in the area leading up to the 2022-23 season.

KNOX, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Natalie Bowser heard the rumblings. The doubters. The naysayers.

That she couldn’t be a six rotation player for the Keystone volleyball team.

She wasn’t quick enough. Agile enough. Lacked the twitch to get down on the floor for digs and the finesse to put up precision sets.

The 6-foot Bowser defied them all.

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

“No one really thought I could do it this year,” said Bowser, who was one of the best all-around players in District 9 this season. “No one thought I could play the whole way around. I feel I performed better than anybody thought I ever would, even myself. It’s definitely something I can look back at and be proud of.”

She’s hoping to do the same this winter on the basketball court.

The senior is hearing the same kind of doubts. That she doesn’t have the shooting touch away from the paint. That she doesn’t have the conditioning to run up and down the floor.

Last year, she put up some big numbers, averaging 15.4 points and 12.1 rebounds per game for the Panthers.

This year, she wants to do even better.

Bowser is working on a mid-range jumper — she takes shot after shot before or after practice. She also wants to improve her defense, which means speeding up her footwork.

Word to the wise: don’t challenge Bowser.

“I’m a very determined person in general,” Bowser said. “Knowing when people doubt me makes me step up my game. Going through my head is, ‘Well, I’m gonna prove you wrong, because I know I can do it.’”

Bowser is more than ready to get started on doing just that this season.

The Keystone team as a whole is also looking to cast aside doubts after a 9-11 season in 2021-22.

The Panthers lost star guard Jozee Weaver just before the campaign tipped off and they stumbled out of the gate.

Younger players were thrust into bigger roles and the growing pains were evident.

But by the second half of the season, Keystone went on a run, winning six of its last seven to close out the campaign.

And give Bowser and her returning teammates a lot of hope.

“I think it’s gonna pay off tremendously,” Bowser said of the growth of the team at the tail end of last year. “I totally believe that this year is going to be way different that last year, without a doubt. I’m really excited to see because we’re already meshing so well.”

Bowser is also determined to elevate her play.

That means squeezing every last advantage out of her game.

Bowser has been working tirelessly on her free throw shooting. As big a presence as she is in the post, Bowser tends to shoot foul shots more than most.

“There’s always ways to get better,” Bowser said. “That’s what I’ve learned throughout all aspects of sport. I’ve been focusing on being able to finish whenever I’m getting double-teamed, or when someone is being physical. I’m learning to be more physical, too. I’ve been working on jump shots and being more accurate at the foul line — just making myself more reliable than I was last year.”

Bowser shoots as many free throws as she can squeeze in, either before or after practice — or even during water breaks within a practice — until she sinks 10 in a row.

She feels like that added work is paying off.

Bowser is also paying extra attention to her conditioning.

“I’m trying to keep my body in shape more,” Bowser said. “I just want to help out my team and just be even more of an asset.”

This will also be Bowser’s last go-around on the basketball court. Softball is her No. 1 sport and the one she will play at the next level.

Her numbers on the softball field have become the stuff of legend. It’s garnered her lots of local — and even national — attention. She’s the high school version of “The Natural” with her prodigious power and high batting average.

Yet in the age of specialization, Bowser has made it a point to continue to play all three sports in high school.

“That was probably the most important decision I’ve made,” Bowser said. “I know for a fact that I would not be the person I am today if I did not play all three of my sports. I know I wouldn’t be succeeding the way I am in softball if I didn’t play basketball or volleyball. Volleyball gave me the quick moves and basketball strengthens my legs. I have no doubt that I wouldn’t be the softball player I am without those two sports. I’m just grateful for it.”

Bowser has been fielding a plethora of offers for softball and has made several college visits.

She said she will make her decision within the next month.

Her choice, though, will be much more about academics than softball, Bowser said.

“Softball isn’t going to be paying the bills,” Bowser said.

She wants to be a middle school teacher when she graduates. That’s been her top priority when looking at schools. Another has been what kind of atmosphere surrounds the softball program.

“It definitely is a unique experience,” Bowser said of the recruiting process. “When you do tours, you interact with so many people and it’s an eye-opening thing. Sometimes you’re like, ‘Wow, it’s awesome here.’ There have been a couple that I’ve really, really liked. A couple of the coaches I’ve met, they’re amazing. They would do anything for their players. They’re always making sure their players are OK. It’s like they are more of a parent than a coach. That goes a long way, too.”

Bowser is hoping to help lead the Keystone basketball team a long way this season.

“We learned our strengths and weaknesses last season,” Bowser said. “We were working on all those little things throughout the year. We were a completely different team by the end of the season and that carried over into the summer and our team camps. I’m excited. I think we can do very well.”

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.