Ziven Fowler is a young man who has two hometowns. He was born in Khabarovsk in Russia and he lives with his adoptive family in Hoover.
Both cities will be on his mind as he competes in the World Lacrosse Championships July 12-23 in Netanya, a Mediterranean resort city in central Israel.
Born Ziven Zaplutaev, he picked up lacrosse after having taken part in karate, baseball, cross country, and track and field. He enjoyed new things and lacrosse proved to be the most exciting.
“My friends played lacrosse in fifth grade,” Ziven recalled. “They’re running around hitting people with sticks. That looked awesome. I just started doing it and fell in love with it.”
Ziven’s lacrosse play had been limited to teams in Hoover, including the Hoover High club squad for which he is an attacking offensive player. While at an invitational showcase tournament, he met a player on the Belgium National Team. That sparked Ziven’s interest in playing for Mother Russia, even though he knows how to say only one phrase in his native language.
“Excuse me. Two beers, please,” the Hoover SGA vice president said. “It doesn’t do me a lot of good. I’m only 17.”
Using the email of his adoptive father, Rob Fowler, Ziven contacted Eugene Arkipov, who is president of the Russian national team. Ziven offered playing for Russia in the World Games in Birmingham in 2021.
“Why wait ‘till 2021?” Arkipov asked. “There are plenty of tournaments.”
The leader of Team Russian put the Fowlers in touch with Dan Willson, an assistant coach with the Russian squad and head coach of the lacrosse club program at UAB.
Willson scouted Ziven’s Hoover team, a young squad that took some lumps in local league play. But he saw more from the high school player when Ziven practiced against UAB players.
“After I saw him juke one of our second-string defensemen – a college junior – and just leave him in the dust, I knew this was definitely a player who could contribute to the (Russian) team.”
Ziven stands 5 feet, 3 inches. He admits being taller would help.
“But the thing that I have is speed,” he said. “Being fast has helped me get out of some situations others wouldn’t have.”
Willson said speed and “stick skills” are key to being an attack player in lacrosse. So, too, are dodging and the ability to read the flow of the game at a high level.
“We’ve typically had a squad made up of anywhere from high school-aged players, such as Ziven, through mid-30-year-old professionals,” he said, “working professionals, not working lacrosse players.”
The World Championship tournament comprises more than 50 national teams. Willson’s goal is for the Russians to finish in the top half of the field.
Ziven left for Israel on July 6. His role on the team will be determined as he and his teammates assemble in advance of the event.
Ziven and his teammates will wear Russian uniforms when they compete. They’ll wear polo shirts at the opening ceremonies that will have Bucs Lacrosse on one sleeve, the result of Ziven’s $3,000 fundraising effort.
“It’s just to bring a piece of Hoover to the World Championships,” Ziven said.