Signing a letter of intent to play for a Division I college basketball team takes a lot of dedication, hard work and the ability to overcome many obstacles. Sam Dowd’s obstacle was bigger than many; he was homeless at age 13.
Dowd grew up in Seattle and had dreamt of playing Division I college basketball since he was in middle school.
“Basketball, I think, kind of saved my life,” Dowd said. “Like a lifeline. You know, in a reality show, that’s the one I would choose.”
Dowd has always been one of the smallest players on the floor, but not very many Division I point guards are interested in recruiting somebody who is 5-foot-7. But his height is something that encompasses his childhood.
Dowd’s parents were divorced, and his dad struggled with addiction.
After being kicked out, Dowd spent the next two and a half years moving from place to place, always struggling to find a place to sleep.
Sometimes, he would spend the night at a friends’ house. Other times, he slept outside.
But despite not having a steady home, Dowd never stopped playing basketball and worked hard to show people what he was capable of.
“It’s unbelievable,” Dowd said. “Life throws a lot of arrows and bumps and bruises at you, and I overcame those things.”
Dowd said sports helped him meet a lot of people and gain connections that helped him in life. Playing basketball started providing him with opportunities early on.
Playing AAU ball led to him becoming friends with a teammate named Reed Hopkins. His sophomore year of high school, Dowd was invited to stay with the Hopkins’ family.
“They were a wonderful, loving family,” Dowd said.
Even though he was only able to stay with them for a year, Dowd said he was thankful for their graciousness.
Shortly after he stopped living with the Hopkins, Dowd moved in with the Miller family, who treated him like he was their own son. Soon after, they adopted him and became his legal guardians. Dowd has now been a member of their family for six years.
“We never looked back,” Dowd said. “I wouldn’t be the man I am today without them.”
But when it came time to pick a college, it was difficult to find a coach willing to give him a chance because of his height.
“Not a lot of people get the opportunity to be in my shoes, to be five foot playing basketball against seven footers and six foot seven people,” Dowd said.
When it came time to pick a college, Dowd’s letter was not one that promised playing time at a Division I school.
Instead, he enrolled at Carroll College in Montana. After one season at Carroll, he transferred to North Idaho College, where he averaged 17 points and seven assists per-game last season- stats that were finally good enough to gain the attention of Division I coaches.
“Size had nothing to do with it,” said ISU head coach Bill Evans, adding that Dowd has overcome his shortness with toughness, integrity and a desire to succeed.
Evans said that these were the things he looked at more than his height and stats when he made the decision to bring Dowd to ISU.
At the beginning of the season, Dowd’s playing time was minimal, but now he is the starting point guard while pursuing a degree in public relations with a minor in management.
After he graduates, Dowd hopes to move to the Philippines, where he has family, to play professional basketball.
The chance to experience a new culture is the biggest reason he wants to play in the Philippines. He is currently in the process of applying for dual-citizenship in the Philippines and the United States.
If he is unable to play professional basketball, Dowd hopes to go into business. He is also considering coaching basketball as a possible career in case business doesn’t work out for him.