Severn's LJ Owens commits to William & Mary

bburden@capgaznews.com

It was a long and arduous, yet exciting process, but LJ Owens is happy to have his next four years mapped out.

Owens, a senior guard at Severn School who was named Capital Gazette Communications boys basketball Player of the Year as a junior last winter, officially committed to William & Mary Wednesday afternoon.

“They have been recruiting me hard for a while, since at least April, and everything about the school and the program felt right to me,” Owens said. “I wanted to make my decision before the season started so I could focus in on school and my last season, so we can take care of business.”

Owens averaged 22 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists as a junior for a 19-10 Admirals squad that reached the MIAA B Conference semifinals for the second consecutive season. He is already a three-year varsity starter and, along with Jermaine Hall, AJ Burch and Mo Terry, is a mainstay in a program that has moved up the competitive ladder.

“It is a crazy process, but it is also a credit to our guys who have played a role in this program moving up a bit,” Severn coach V.J. Keith said. “They are getting exposure through this whole process.”

The process involved a plethora of collegiate coaches filling up gyms whenever possible to see the sleek and slender guard hoist up shot after shot. The phone rang off the hook constantly, but Owens, as he has handled everything else, approached the experience from a mature vantage point, and that included his final decision-making process. Before officially announcing that he was committing to William & Mary, he contacted the other coaches in his final list to let them know his decision directly.

“That is tough for a 17 year old, to have to tell a grown man ‘No,’ but they can take it,” Keith said. “They hear it all the time; it is part of the business. He had more than 20 offers and he handled it perfectly, but that is just LJ. He is first class and he understood that a lot of people put in the time and effort to recruit him. These are quality coaches with quality programs at good academic schools.”

Owens said he ultimately received about 19 or 20 official offers, and paired it down to William & Mary, Delaware, St. Joseph’s and Quinnipiac. Even with that decision, the recruiting continued through this week, as Keith noted that they Severn had workouts every Tuesday and Thursday for the boys and girls’ basketball teams that are open to other Severn School athletes, from freshmen on up.

“There would be four or five Division I coaches there almost every time, just to show their continued interest,” Keith said. “It can be intimidating.”

At the end, Owens chose the Tribe, from the Colonial Athletic Association Conference. Coach Tony Shaver, a University of North Carolina alum, is going into his 15th season. He has posted a school-record 193 victories, and the team achieved three straight 20-win seasons before falling to 17-14 last year. They went 10-8 in the CAA and tied for fourth in the conference with Elon in the 2016-17 season.The school has yet to reach the NCAA Tournament, but it has advanced to the NIT three times, including in 2010 and 2015.

“I have talked a lot to Coach Shaver and he talks about all the good teams they have had, and they just have not been able to get into the tournament,” Owens said. “It has been my dream to play at the Division I level since I can remember, and it would be great to play on a couple of teams that do get into the tournament.”

Owens made official visits to William & Mary, Quinnipiac and St. Joseph’s. Keith accompanied Owens and his mother on an unofficial to William & Mary as well.

“The fit at William and Mary was great. We went down there on an unofficial visit, and you knew it was right even then,” Keith said. “Coach Shaver and Coach (Kotie) Kimball, who handled the bulk of the recruiting process, were great throughout. Look at the Colonial Athletic Conference — it is a perfect level for him. I hate using the term Mid-Major, as that is what it is called, but the conference is known for good basketball and good academics. He also gets to come home against Towson and Delaware, so his family will get to see him.”

The Tribe graduated its top two players — All-CAA performers Daniel Dixon and Omar Prewitt — and lost four starters total from last year’s squad. Another five seniors will move on after the 2017-18 season, so Owens has a legitimate opportunity to make an immediate impact as a freshman on a squad that is expected to be talented, but young.

“He wants to make an impact right away, but I think they envision his entire four-year career, and what he can do,” Keith said. “He is really good now, but by the time he is a junior and senior, with all the time in the weight room, he could be unbelievable then. He could be a game changer down the road, help them win a conference championship and get into the NCAA tournament.”

With the process out of the way, Owens can move forward and enjoy a competitive winter, as the Admirals hope to take that next step and win the B Conference. His focus is straight and true, but he does occasionally have visions of his team’s name being called on Selection Sunday.

“To have the whole community rooting for us in the tournament — I hope to make that happen, because it would be so much fun,” Owens said.

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