Owens Weathers The Storm
By Kevin Danna
When you see Josh Owens set up shop on the low block, you wonder who can stop him. When you see him grace through the air for a tomahawk jam, your breath is taken away by his athleticism.
What he has done in a Cardinal uniform the last two years is all the more impressive when you realize his basketball career might have come to an end after his first two years in college.
A month before his junior season was about to begin, a year in which he and close friend Landry Fields were set to be the leaders of the 2009-10 Stanford team, Owens found out he would be unable to play due to an undisclosed medical condition. It wasn't just season-ending, either; there was a point in which it looked like Owens might not be able to play again.
"That was probably the toughest year, definitely basketball-wise, of my life up to this point," Owens said. "But it gave me a chance to go out and support my teammates full-fledged as much as I could and just keep hoping and praying that I would be back on the court soon."
Although there was much uncertainty surrounding his future, Owens kept his faith that he would be able to get back on the floor and prepared himself for such an occasion.
"I treated every day as if I was going to be back on the court at some point, so I kept working out on my own, doing skill development and basketball stuff on my own, just in case I got the word that 'Hey, you can go back on the court,' that I'd be ready," he said.
Finally, a couple of months after the conclusion of the 2009-10 season, Owens heard the words he'd been hoping for the whole school year.
"When I got the news, it was great after waiting so long," he said. "It was nice to just know that having faith and sticking to it paid off."
In the two years since, the redshirt senior has taken full advantage of his new lease on basketball, averaging double figures and leading the team in rebounding the past two seasons. Owens came back with a greater appreciation for the game, and according to head coach Johnny Dawkins, those stats have been a direct result of this heightened desire.
"I think [it's] that passion you gain when something is taken away from you, and realizing that 'Hey, I may not ever do this again,'" Dawkins said. "So he comes out focused, he comes out and takes advantage of every practice and every game."
While Owens' numbers have been impressive since coming back, the most eye-popping part of his game is his athleticism. When he gets a steal in the open court, you know you will be in for a treat with a thunderous jam on the other end. Then the emotion will sometimes burst forth from an otherwise even-keeled Owens. Only he doesn't realize it.
"When I was younger when I got a dunk, I'd get really hyped and I'd get really excited. Now I'll get a dunk and a lot of times I think 'Oh, it's just two points,'" Owens said. "Whether it's after the game or the next day in practice, one of my teammates would say, 'Man, that dunk was so crazy! You got all in this guy's face!' And a lot of times, I'm like, 'Oh, I did?'"
That's not to say he is merely an athlete. Owens always had a tough-to-guard turnaround baby hook on the low block, which has become even more difficult to defend now that he has added a spin move off his opposite shoulder to diversify his post moves.
"They try to double him, they try to crowd him, and so for him to have a counter and not just be one dimensional has made him a lot more effective in the low post," Dawkins said.
In large thanks to Owens, Stanford will finish the 2011-12 season with a winning record and be eligible for the postseason. And though this season will be his last at the collegiate level, there is plenty of basketball ahead in Owens' future, something that was solidified by having the game momentarily taken away from him two years ago.
"Obviously, the NBA is a dream, playing here in the states. But if that doesn't work out, I wouldn't mind doing a bit of traveling for a few years," Owens said. "Sitting out that year made me realize how much I definitely love the game. I definitely knew at that point that I wanted to play as long as I could because it could be taken away at any point."