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Former Pallotti forward Tariq Owens transfers to St. John's from Tennessee

Former Pallotti forward Tariq Owens transfers to St. John's from Tennessee
Tennessee forward Tariq Owens shoots over Mississippi State forward Gavin Ware. (ADAM LAU / Associated Press)

A year ago Tariq Owens signed on as one of Donnie Tyndall's first recruits at Tennessee. On Wednesday, the former Pallotti and Mount Zion Prep star became Chris Mullin's first commitment at St.  John's.

Owens, a 6-foot-10, 205-pound forward, found himself back on the market when Tennessee dismissed Tyndall after one season following an NCAA investigation into the coach's tenure at Southern Miss. Mullin, meanwhile, was hired to coach his alma mater 10 days ago.

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Renard Owens, Tariq's father, said the past few weeks have been a whirlwind.

"Tariq had a lot of interest," his father said. "We just didn't want things to get out of hand. He went through that with high school recruiting."

Tyndall's firing took the Owens family by surprise, but Renard said the coach's departure didn't immediately result in Tariq's request for a transfer. The Owens' waited for Tennessee to hire a new coach, and spoke to former Texas coach Rick Barnes soon after he landed the job.

"We wanted to see what his plans for the team were moving forward, see if it was a good fit," Owens said. "Based on those conversations, Tennessee didn't appear to be as good of a fit anymore. That's when we started it. We looked to see where else could be a good fit."

In addition to St. John's, Cincinnati, George Washington, Minnesota and N.C. State were among the programs that expressed interest in Owens. The Red Storm stood out immediately to father and son.

"We have a family situation; his great grandmother is there in a nursing home," said Renard, who was born and raised in Queens. "She played an integral part in my life. Him having her close by was one of the determining factors."

The relatively quick drive from Renard's Odenton home to New York also played a role. Plus, St. John's makes a trip to D.C. every year for a Big East matchup against Georgetown.

And there's also the added bonus of playing for a Dream Team member, three-time Big East Player of the Year, two-time All-American and five-time NBA All-Star.

"Not many coaches have played the game at his level," Renard said of Mullin. "He's one of St. John's all-time greats, an NBA Hall of Famer. A lot of coaches played the game or go to games, but not many have played at this level. To be able to learn and develop under someone who played at that level and be a part of a rebuilding program, that's something special. And playing for a Hall of Famer, that speaks for itself."

Owens, who appeared in 28 of Tennessee's 32 games as a freshman, averaged 1.2 points and 1.1 rebounds. A former four-star recruit according to Scout.com, Owens will sit out this year as a transfer and have three years of eligibility remaining.

"We're not going to pursue a waiver," Renard said. "He can benefit from taking a year, getting stronger to develop and … be ready to contribute for St. John's. Take that year of development, build up your body and be an impact player right away after that first year."

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