Noah Dowden’s mother claims the best $5 she ever spent was on a Little Tikes basketball hoop for her then 3-year-old son. 

“I was just a hyper kid,” Dowden said. “My parents were like, ‘We have to get him something. He’s got to quit bugging us all the time.’”

Dowden quickly became addicted to his miniature hoop, and now, 16 years later as a freshman in college, he has dreams of continuing his basketball career at the professional level overseas.

Dowden, a Kokomo, Indiana, native, will be in Chicago June 16-17 for a Eurobasket Summer League (ESL) tryout. ESL is known as the top international exposure event in the game and has been distributing professional level talent to more than 70 countries for the past 10 years.

A two-sport standout at Northwestern High School, Dowden was runner-up for the Kokomo All-Area Player of the Year in basketball and was offered a preferred walk-on spot for Indiana State football. 

Dowden ended up coming to Ball State to focus on academics. As far as he knew, his athletic career was over. He played basketball five days a week in the Jo Ann Gora Student Recreation and Wellness Center, but he said the satisfaction just wasn’t the same.

“I miss the flow of the season, bonding with teammates, going to different gyms and playing against other teams,” Dowden said. “I just miss the whole process of being on an official basketball team.”

It wasn’t until Ball State point guard Tayler Persons walked in the gym one day that Dowden realized playing overseas would be a possibility. Dowden said he was about to leave for the day, but as soon as Persons walked in, his plans changed.

“Tayler came over and started playing, and I was like, ‘No chance I’m leaving now. I’ve got to see how I compare to him,’” Dowden said.

Dowden said he was able to stay with Persons for most of the game and thought he competed well. Persons had high praise for Dowden, complimenting him on how hard he competes.

“I like his game. I like how hard he goes to the rim,” Persons said. “He’s a good player. I like playing against guys like that in the rec because it makes me better.”

Initially, Dowden was just happy to get Persons’ attention, but after seeing his reaction to his gameplay, he started to rethink his sports career.

Dowden said he has always been fascinated by the idea of traveling the world, which stems back to when his parents first met while serving the U.S. Army in Germany. They would tell him stories of their experiences in Europe and that has stuck with Dowden all his life.

“I’m all about traveling and experiencing things,” Dowden said. “I just really want to experience a new culture, new place, new everything — I think it would just be fun.”

In the chance he doesn’t make a team come mid-June, Dowden said he will return to college and try out for Ball State’s team. That decision will ultimately be up to the coaching staff, but Persons said if Dowden can help make the team better, he would definitely be welcomed.

“I think he’s got a good shot to come here and try to walk on,” Persons said. “What’s cool about his story is you can tell he’s not giving up on his dreams. That’s something cool for anyone to hear or read about. That’s awesome.”

Contact Zach Piatt with comments at zapiatt@bsu.edu or on Twitter at @zachpiatt13