Garrett, Dowtin Have Rams on Point

Garrett, Dowtin Have Rams on Point

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – To say Jarvis Garrett has faced challenges throughout his career at Rhode Island is understating the obvious.

This year alone, he missed a significant stretch of the season with ulcerative colitis. He was sidelined for eight straight games in January and February and did not know whether he would make it back to the court. With the virus that cost Garrett a quarter of Rhode Island's season being fresh in everyone's mind, it's easy to forget he also was taken off the court on a stretcher following a scary neck injury against Duke back in November. 

Fast forward a few months, and there was Garrett, hitting 12-for-12 from the free-throw line in a key victory over VCU on Feb. 25 – a precursor to his contributions to the run through the Atlantic 10 Championship. When Rhode Island beat VCU again on March 12 – to win the conference title and clinch a spot in NCAA Tournament – there was Garrett, embracing classmate Jared Terrell after the final buzzer.Asked about the final moments of that championship game, Garrett recalled feeling a flood of emotions.

"I was just remembering everything that I have been through since freshman year," he said. "Being able to overcome everything and having these guys, these teammates and these coaches by my side, they have helped me so much through the whole process."

Ironically, the person who may have benefitted the most from Garrett is the person who took his spot in the starting lineup. Freshman Jeff Dowtin was thrust into a starting role while Garrett recovered from his midseason illness. Even when Garrett returned, Dowtin retained the starting role, permanently entrenched as Rhode Island's point guard.

"He has helped me tremendously," Dowtin said of Garrett. "He always has my back, and I know I can go to him any time I have questions. To me, we are a two-headed monster together. If I'm not playing well, I know he's there to back me up. And if he's not playing well, I'm there to back him up too. It's the best of both worlds for both of us.

"As the year has moved along, I feel like it has been a breakout season for me. Early in the season, I was a little timid, really. As the season has moved along, my confidence has grown and I am feeling a lot more loose on the floor."

The simple truth is that Rhode Island's success is due in no small part to the relationship between Garrett and Dowtin. The point guards run the show for Rhode Island. For Garrett, who had started 65 games in two-plus seasons before his illness, it would have been understandable to take a selfish stand. He had proven himself as a starter. And, when he was healthy enough to play, it would have been easy for him to complain about losing the role to Dowtin. Instead, what he did was once again prove himself as a leader on this team.

"I was never sure when I was going to be able to come back," Garrett said. "When I did come back and play, my focus was doing whatever the team needed me to do. I was going to accept my role.

"It has been perfectly fine. I had the chance to be on the sideline and see the game from a different perspective. By Jeff stepping up and taking over the starting position, it gave me the chance to provide support and share with him the things I am seeing on the court."

While Garrett was on the sidelines, Dowtin entrenched himself in the lineup. His cool presence on the court helped his confidence grow as the season moved along.

"As a freshman, a lot of people think you are going to be nervous out there or have a lot of jitters," Dowtin said. "For me, the key is always just to take a couple deep breaths and go out there to enjoy the game, enjoy the moments. My job is to go out there and control the tempo of the game. If I am not calm and relaxed, how am helping the rest of the team stay calm? So I just do what I have to do to make sure we all are taking our time and doing what we are supposed to do."

While Dowtin's confidence and production grew, Garrett bided his time on the sideline. It is no coincidence the Rams are playing their best basketball of the season since the junior returned to action, posting an 8-1 record and winning eight straight games heading into Friday's game against Creighton (TBS, 4:30 p.m. ET).

"It's actually refreshing in a way," Garrett said. "By sitting out for so long and then coming back to the team toward the end of the year, everyone's bodies are starting to wear down when mine is feeling fresh. I feel like I can push the game at a higher speed because my legs are fresh."

As a result, the now fully-healthy Rams are peaking as both point guards are playing their best ball of the season.

"Winning the Atlantic 10 championship, that was unbelievable," Garrett said. "Everything, in a basketball sense, went through as planned."