COEUR d'ALENE — By the time Sam Dowd gave Idaho State head basketball coach Bill Evans an oral commitment last week, the North Idaho College guard had been courted by a host of potential Division I suitors.
Pacific. Cal Poly. Southern. Winthrop. Household names, no, but a substantial boost from the lone offer the 5-foot-6 floor general generated from an NAIA school while starring at Gonzaga Prep.
When Dowd signed with Carroll College in the spring of 2014, he figured he'd top out at the NCAA Division II level. The Helena, Mont., school was considering an upward move, but when that didn't materialize, he transferred to NIC after a redshirt season.
Two years at a Division I funnel such as NIC could alter recruiters' minds, he figured. After helping the Cardinals to a 56-7 record in two seasons, a mark which tied him as the most winningest player in program history, he was right.
"Every kid's dream is play Division I basketball, and for me to get that opportunity and to get my school paid for," Dowd said. "It's just a great opportunity that I am blessed to have."
NIC head coach Corey Symons knew Dowd was a high-level talent, despite his measurables.
Symons guaranteed at least a NCAA Division II scholarship when Dowd transferred in, but he also believed he was worth the attention of mid-majors.
"He's a Division I talent. His knock, as you can tell, is that he's too little. At 5-foot-6, 5-7, he's kind of small, so nobody really wanted to give him a chance," Symons said "But, for us, he was the most winningest player in the history of the school and proved to some Division I schools he's capable of playing at a high level."
This past season, Dowd averaged 17.7 points, 7.2 assists, four rebounds and logged 35.1 minutes a night. He earned first-team all-Northwest Athletic Conference.
Evans is excited about the addition of Dowd.
"He is small in stature but his intangibles are incredible," Evans said. "I just talked to a coach in (the NWAC) who said he is the best leader on an opposing team that he has seen in 30 years. He has the ability to bring guys together. He's a winner."
Dowd was a winner at Gonzaga Prep and NIC, but now he turns he hopes to become a part of a reclamation project in Pocatello. The Bengals finished just 5-26 last year.
"They have a couple good pieces coming back," Dowd said of ISU. "They struggled last year, so I want to be part of that legacy, the tradition they want to rebuild."
If anyone can help give the Bengals relevance in the Big Sky, Symons believes it's Dowd.
"Just look at Sammy's track record, and that's what we told Idaho State and other schools that were recruiting him," Symons said. He wins. Doesn't matter how big he is, he wins everywhere he goes."
Three other North Idaho College hoopers also signed letters of intent, including:
Zaequan Satterthwaite (Puyallup, Wash.) signed to play with NCAA Division II Point Loma University in San Diego. The 6-foot-8 Satterthwaite averaged 14 points and eight rebounds, and both he and Dowd finished their Cardinal careers tied for the school record for wins at 56.
Markus Golder (Clackamas) signed with Valparaiso University in Indiana after he was named Freshman of the Year in the NWAC East. He averaged 19 points and 7 rebounds on 55 percent shooting from the field.
Niko Bevens (Beaverton, Ore.), signed to play at the University of Montana. He ended the year shooting 50 percent from the 3-point line, making 111 three-pointers as a freshman.
MOVING ON UP: In Corey Symons' three years as NIC head coach, he's sent 12 players on to the NCAA Division I level
Sam Dowd: Idaho State
Niko Bevens: Montana
Markus Golder: Valpo
Brayon Blake: Idaho
Kyle Guice: Illinois-Chicago
Braian Angola-Rodas: Florida State
Tre Burch-Manning: South Dakota
Lucas Antunez: Toledo
Austin Pope: North Carolina Central
D'Adrian Allen: Southern
Jordon King: IPFW
Jamaal Robateau: Gardner-Webb