Just 10 minutes before his team's final game of last season, St. Vincent Pallotti High School boys basketball coach Shae Johnson decided to start Tariq Owens.
Johnson said he recalls thinking that Owens — who is 6-foot-8 and has a wingspan nearly 7 feet — would match up well against the opposing center from McDonogh School. Plus, Owens had practiced hard all year, deserving a shot at an increased role.
Owens shined, scored eight points, rebounded and limited his counterpart.
“That just kind of put the whole chapter together,” Johnson said. “It was like, OK, we're ready to move on to next year and get this thing moving.”
Owens, a rising junior, has picked up in The Rock Summer League where he left off winter, most recently helping Pallotti to a 54-40 win against Springbrook on Tuesday.
Above all, Owens uses his height well, scoring over smaller defenders, grabbing rebounds at peak height and blocking shots at the top of their arcs. He says it's the product of always being the tallest kid his age and having a tall dad who taught him the tricks of the trade.
Last season, Owens' first at Pallotti after transferring from Arundel High, the center served as a defensive-minded role player off the bench.
“We saw glimpses of what he could be,” Johnson said. “Now, they're coming to fruition.”
Owens' size and skills have drawn recruiting interest from Loyola, George Mason, James Madison, Delaware and Delaware State. But before evaluating college options, Johnson said Owens needs more playing time, and he's getting plenty of it this summer. He is focused on improving his strength, ball-handling and shooting ability, but Owens' potential had been clear even before his breakout game against McDonough.
“We knew he was growing,” Johnson said. “We could see it all year. We was like, if he could just give us what he was giving us, that would have been a plus. But he gave us a whole lot more.”
Growing literally?“Nah, not literally — I hope literally,” Johnson said. “That would help us out, too. I just mean grow as a player. He's getting smarter and working a lot harder. He knows the game a lot more.”