Tenacious. Feisty. Competitive. Intense. These are the terms that get recycled over the course of any conversation concerning Portland State sophomore guard Jane Gowans.
Coaches and players talk about her selfless attitude on the court.
They discuss her willingness to do the little things to help her team win ball games, hustling to make the plays that are rarely glorified in the box score. They discuss her leadership qualities, both on the court and throughout campus, and her abilities to motivate her teammates vocally.
Those in and around the Vikings’ women’s basketball team mention all of those character traits in their descriptions of Gowans’ play, but invariably they arrive at the same conclusion in summing up the 5-foot-9 New Zealand native: driven.
“This is really a highly competitive person,” head coach George Wolfe said. “Jane is very tough – very strong-minded.”
Senior guard Krishelle Jessee agrees.
“She works so hard, and she’s all over the floor defensively – frustrating people,” Jessee said. “She’s so aggressive, and really a great asset to this team.”
Gowans came to Portland State for her freshman year in 2000 from Nelson, New Zealand, where she distinguished herself as a basketball player by earning MVP honors on the under-20 national team.
She admits the move to Portland was an adjustment.
“I’m from a small town and I wanted to come to a big city,” Gowans said, “and it took me about a month to adjust. There was a slight language barrier, just in some of the words that are different between the cultures, but things went well and Portland State’s been a good place for me.”
Wolfe has been impressed with the manner in which Gowans has adapted to life as a student-athlete in the Pacific Northwest.
“Jane has a magnetic personality,” Wolfe said. “She’s very proactive in everything she does. She made the effort to become a part of the team from the start, and she’s done things like organize team potlucks at her house to help build a sense of unity. As a leader, she covers all the bases.”
She is beginning to serve notice with her play and afore-mentioned toughness, which doesn’t bode well for opposing backcourts as the Vikings plunge into Big Sky Conference play.
After averaging 5.8 points and 1.9 rebounds in an injury-plagued freshman campaign, Gowans has managed to stay mostly healthy this year, raising those averages to 8.4 and 3.6 respectively.
The term “mostly” applies to her health this year because she has missed time with a few concussions.
“I don’t set goals for myself statistically, with the exception of charges,” Gowans said. “I take a lot of pride in stopping someone from scoring and taking charges. I like to try to draw at least one offensive foul per game.”
Gowans is working toward a degree in Administration of Justice with the hopes of one day working in crime-scene investigation or forensics.
“A lot of people think it’s a strange choice for a profession, but I’d like to be a coroner,” Gowans said. “It’s interesting work and it’s a chance to help people.”
Gowans is the product of an athletic family: Her father played professional soccer in England and her mother represented Canterbury in netball and gymnastics, while her two brothers are prominent in New Zealand in basketball and extreme skiing. She credits her parents with fostering the determination to succeed that has helped her clear hurdles at each stage of her development as a basketball player.
“My parents have encouraged me and worked on my behalf to keep me going in sports,” Gowans said. “They’ve always been tremendously supportive of my interests in sports.”
Gowans stays busy off the court also. In addition to class, she works as a student ambassador.
“It’s all about time management,” Gowans said, of balancing her schedule. “I got involved with SA, and each week I do a campus tour because I really like this school and I want to promote it.”
With the team ranked around the middle of the pack in the Big Sky, Gowans is looking for the Vikings to surprise some people this year and move up in the conference standings, a goal Wolfe agrees is realistic.
“I think we could be in the top quarter of the teams in this conference if we play the way I know we’re capable,” Wolfe said.
What would Gowans prescribe for the squad in trying to realize that goal?
“We need to be a little more feisty and aggressive,” Gowans said. “I think if we play with a little more team intensity, we can win some of the close games we’ve lost in the preseason schedule.”