Playing Division I basketball was the furthest thing from Tariq Owens' mind when he was just a 5-foot-9 eighth-grade football player. But three years, 12 inches and a new sport changed his mindset dramatically.
Owens, now a 6-foot-9, 180-pound junior forward from Pallotti, found himself in the enviable position this spring of choosing between several DI scholarship offers. On Monday night, the Odenton resident selected Ohio University.
"It feels very good to have that out of the way and [be able to] focus on other things," Owens said Tuesday. "When the process first started, I didn't expect to get as much attention as I did. [But] it turned out for the best."
Owens, who picked the Bobcats over offers from Cal State Northridge, Miami and Temple, didn't start playing competitive basketball until his freshman year at Arundel High. He grew to 6-3 by the start of his sophomore year at Pallotti, before rapidly sprouting over the past year-and-a-half.
Owens didn't play much with the Panthers over the past two seasons, seeing approximately 12 minutes per game as a junior. But on the AAU circuit last summer and this spring with Under Armour B'more's Finest, he thrived and caught the attention of college coaches and scouts.
"It was very important, because playing with [B'more's Finest] I got to play with better competition and really develop," Owens said. "It was tougher competition -- more demanding for your skills. And you had to put more things into practice and training. You had to really implement those."
Ohio started recruiting Owens in February and stayed persistent in the pursuit over the past several months. Owens said he built a strong relationship with assistant coach Anthony Stewart. A visit last weekend to Athens sold Owens on spending four years in the Midwest.
"It was great. I loved it," he said. "Nice campus, nice arena. I really liked the arena. I really liked the football field. I liked the structure in place as far as academic-wise and all that."
The Ohio coaches want Owens to play the stretch 4, focusing on knocking down mid-range jumpers and taking it to the hoop. On the defensive end, the lanky forward should contribute as a shot blocker right off the bat.
Though there was some temptation to visit his other finalists, Owens said his comfort level at Ohio was apparent pretty quickly. Before he joined his future teammates in their locker room to watch Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals Monday night, he happily offered his pledge to Bobcats coach Jim Christian.
"I wanted to visit other schools, but when I got to Ohio, they had everything in place," Owens said. "I really liked the campus, the feel of it, the area, the coaching. It was a good vibe with the players. I sat down and met with the president of the school and talked to him. It felt like a really good fit that would be my home away from home. I felt like I didn't need to go anywhere else."