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University of Tennessee freshman forward Tariq Owens played at Pallotti High School before landing a spot on the court playing for the Volunteers
University of Tennessee freshman forward Tariq Owens played at Pallotti High School before landing a spot on the court playing for the Volunteers (Courtesy photo by Randy Sartin, Tennesse Athletics)

After playing a road game Jan. 7 at Mississippi State, the University of Tennessee men's basketball team arrived back in Knoxville around 3 a.m. the following morning.

That did not give Tariq Owens much time to rest, as he had a class at 9:40 a.m. that dealt with the exploration of his major before watching film with the basketball team that afternoon.

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Such is life in the high-level Southeastern Conference, where the former St. Vincent Pallotti High standout is a freshman this season for the Volunteers.

Owens 19, attended Arundel High as a freshman and then played at Pallotti in Laurel before he spent one post-graduate year at Mt. Zion Prep in Baltimore.

"Mt. Zion was like a transition year for me. We had hard workouts," said Owens, who played 13 minutes off the bench for Tennessee in the victory at Mississippi State. My coaches" told me a lot about what college was going to be like. They told me that college is really different. It is a grind."

A 6-foot-10 freshman forward, Owens played in 10 of the first 13 games with one start and was averaging about one point and one rebound in nearly eight minutes per contest for Tennessee.

"I feel like it has been a good season," he said. "I am getting better. We work hard to get better every day. I have progressed a lot from when I was in high school."

Tennessee won its fifth straight game at Mississippi State as Owens had three points, one assist and one block as the Volunteers improved to 9-4 overall and won its first conference game.

"It is really an adjustment," he said of coming off the bench. "As long as I can come in and contribute to the team and help the team I am fine with starting or coming off the bench."

"When you come off the bench you have to watch the game. You try not to make the same mistakes as the guy before you," he added. "You have to pay attention."

Owens originally planned to play at Division I Ohio University but was able to be released from that commitment after a coaching change there.

Soon after that, the resident of Odenton heard from Donnie Tyndall, the first-year head coach of Tennessee. Owens and family members – his father, Renard, played prep basketball in New York – then made a visit to Knoxville.

"Tariq is a very long, athletic and versatile post player," Tyndall said in a statement when Owens committed to the Vols. "For a guy his size, he has a really impressive skill level. He can step out and make 15- to 18-footers, and he certainly has the potential to impact the game at the defensive end early in his career."

Owens has enjoyed being part of Volunteer Nation.

"I like it a lot. The people here are really supportive. I see orange everywhere," said Owens, who will be stopped by fans of the Volunteers when he visits a local mall.

Owens made the first start of his college career on Dec. 6 against Kansas State.

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In November he came off the bench and played nine minutes against Kansas, ranked No. 11 at the time. He came off the bench Nov. 14 against Virginia Commonwealth, ranked No. 20 in the country as of Jan. 10, and had the first point and rebound of his career against Texas Southern a few days later.

One of his good friends is Marcquise Reed, a former Pallotti teammate now with Division I Robert Morris near Pittsburgh. Another former Pallotti teammate is Jeff Holland, who plays for Division III Catholic.

"This year has been great. We have a bunch of new people and I am a freshman," Owens said. "We are learning from each other. It has been a fun experience. Coach Tyndall is a great coach. We are one big family there."

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