Owens doesn't miss a trick

Boys basketball: The Annapolis senior standout combines outstanding skills with a court savvy rarely seen in the high school game.

High Schools

February 02, 2003|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

It figures that Laronja "Eek" Owens' favorite movies are action or fright flicks.

The Annapolis senior has been nothing short of a villain to Anne Arundel County boys basketball opponents for the past three years.

Owens, Anne Arundel County's Player of the Year last season and an All-Metro guard, has never lost to a county opponent in his three-year varsity career.

"Eek is one of the top five overall players that we have ever had at Annapolis," said Panthers coach John Brady, who considers Owens to be a "basketball genius."

"When it comes to court savvy and cleverness, nobody is better than Eek. He has more tricks than David Copperfield."

Annapolis is 63-4 overall with Owens in the backcourt. This season, the No. 5 Panthers are 14-1, including 10-0 in the county.

The Panthers will put their record of 69 consecutive regular-season wins over Anne Arundel teams on the line at 7:15 p.m. tomorrow at No. 17 Glen Burnie (11-3, 7-3).

Owens, who last season became the ninth Panther to score 1,000 career points (but the first as a junior) will be on center stage, and that's just fine with him.

"They'll be calling my name out in warm-ups, and teams do that all the time trying to distract me," said the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Owens. "It's kind of funny. It just makes me play harder. I like the pressure. Everybody wants to beat us, and that's what makes it great playing for Annapolis."

Nicknamed "Eek" after his dad, Zeke Owens, who played at Annapolis High more than 30 years ago, Owens has handled the pressure of being the go-to guy on the county's most-wanted team.

He is currently the county's leading scorer, averaging 23.3 points in 15 games.

His strength, quickness, creativity and ability to finish have enabled him to score on the move or from the perimeter.

Those attributes have helped him score 1,414 career points, just 93 shy of 2000 graduate Thomas Hawkins, who is second in Annapolis history.

Chances of passing former teammate Marcus Neal, who graduated in 2001 with 1,744 points, are remote, but that's irrelevant to Owens.

"It means a lot to me to be that high because throughout my career I've played hard and done whatever I've had to do to help this program," said Owens, who relishes assists as much as points.

"It's not about what I score. It's about playing my game and doing what it takes to win."

Brady said Owens is a very unselfish player whose work ethic is like that of his favorite player. "Michael Jordan is my favorite player because of his attitude and being such a hard worker," Owens said.

The same can be said of Owens, who is always looking for ways to improve his game, which he intends to take with him to the collegiate level.

"I've actually learned things from him," said Brady, who hopes to use Owens as a speaker at a clinic this summer. "He knows so many little things that he has picked up playing and observing -- things you won't get in a textbook. He has unique ways to guard players and to use his body on offense."

Owens has watched many NBA and college games on TV and is into basketball video games. "I'm the kind of person who studies the players and what they're trying to do," he said. "That's how I pick up a lot of things."

One of his favorite tricks is to pester the other team's top scorer by constantly tapping the elbow of his shooting arm.

"They usually get pretty frustrated," said Owens, who doesn't care to give away too many secrets.

It's no secret that the young senior, who won't be 18 until October, wants to succeed off the court as well.

He recently retook the SAT to try to raise his score. Brady predicts if he doesn't play Division I next year, he will after junior college.

"My goal is to get a college degree and some day start my own business," Owens said. "Or maybe I will coach."

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