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Former Severn School star LJ Owens transferring to UMBC

Bill Wagner
Contact Reporterbwagner@capgaznews.com

Ryan Odom has done an amazing job of totally transforming the UMBC men’s basketball program during his three-year tenure as head coach.

Odom has completely changed the perception of UMBC basketball and the most obvious benefit has been the ability to attract a higher caliber of recruits.

LJ Owens pretty much made that point when confirming to The Capital on Wednesday he will be transferring to UMBC.

Owens took an unofficial visit to UMBC the summer prior to his junior year at Severn School and was not all that impressed.

Much has happened since then with UMBC capturing the 2018 America East Conference championship then becoming the first 16th seed to upset a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Catonsville school also opened a sparkling new facility – the UMBC Event Center.

Owens took only one official visit after announcing his intent to transfer from William & Mary. The Annapolis resident liked everything he saw and heard at UMBC and did not need to look any further.

“It’s like a whole new atmosphere up there. It’s definitely a program on the rise,” Owens said. “Coach Odom has a vision for UMBC basketball that I believe in and want to be part of.”

Owens enjoyed a strong freshman season at William & Mary, appearing in all 31 games with eight starts. The 6-foot-3, 165-pound swingman averaged 6.9 points and 1.6 rebounds while playing 24 minutes per game as one of the top substitutes.

Owens shot 47 percent from the field and 39 percent from 3-point range while reaching double figures for scoring nine times. He scored a season-high 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting against Northeastern.

William & Mary fired head coach Tony Shaver following his 16th season at the helm, prompting Owens to announce via Twitter that he would be exploring his options.

“Once coach got dismissed, I decided to look at other schools just to see what was out there,” said Owens, adding that UMBC was the first prospective school that made contact once NCAA rules permitted.

Both Odom and UMBC top assistant coach Nate Dixon have sons who played basketball at St. Mary’s and went against Owens when he was a senior at Severn School. Jake Brudish, graduate assistant for the Retrievers, is a Severn School graduate.

“I had a strong connection with the coaching staff. I’ve known Coach Odom and Coach Dixon a while now and am real comfortable with them,” Owens said. “They recruited me real hard the first time around and it meant a lot that they were the first school to call this time.”

Owens heard from about a dozen schools interested in acquiring his services, but said he only seriously considered three. Odom has implemented an up-tempo philosophy at UMBC and that appealed to Owens, the all-time leading scorer in Anne Arundel County boys’ basketball history with 2,166 career points.

“I definitely love the playing style Coach Odom has put in. I just feel like the type of system UMBC runs fits me real well,” Owens said. “Also, the fact it’s close to home and I’ll be able to play in front of friends and family more often was another factor.”

Owens, who was named Capital Gazette Newspapers Player of the Year as both a junior and senior, intends to apply for a waiver so he will not have to sit out the 2019-2020 season per NCAA transfer rules.

Londell Owens, who starred at Annapolis High in the early 1980s and played collegiately at Kent State, was pleased his son found a new home he is comfortable with.

“I am happy that LJ has a chance to continue his dream of playing Division I college basketball close to home where our family and friends have a chance to see him play more often,” Londell Owens said.

UPDATE: UMBC received a signed national letter-of-intent from Owens on Wednesday and that allowed Odom to issue the following statement about picking up the talented transfer.

“We are so excited to add LJ Owens to our program. He has the total package- an excellent student, excellent player, and most important a great person. We are thrilled that he will be able to finish his career close to home in front of his family and friends!

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