Men’s Basketball: ‘A chance to advance’: Owens embraces new opportunity

Assistant coach Jack Owens speaks with media June 15. Credit: Jacob Benge | Sports Editor

Jack Owens’ career as a basketball coach spans over two decades, and his experience will only grow at Ohio State.

He spent the last five seasons as the head coach of Miami (Ohio) and over 10 years as an assistant at other programs. Owens will reassume an assistant role at Ohio State, where he said the people and the players drew his interest.

Owens said he’s intrigued by the player development within the Buckeyes’ program, and sophomore guard Malaki Branham and junior forward EJ Liddell – who anticipate their names called during the NBA Draft Thursday – are two examples who stand out.

“You see from a development standpoint, Malaki, EJ, the opportunities that they’re going to have,” Owens said. “Hopefully those guys are able to get drafted and have great, great careers.”

Branham displayed his quick ascension in the conference particularly during the latter half of last season, scoring 35 points at Nebraska Jan. 2 and kicking off his run to the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award.

Beating expectations and moving onto the professional scene, Owens said player growth like Branham “resonates” within the minds of prospective players considering Ohio State.

“He’s here, what, 10 months? He has an opportunity to be an NBA draft pick, “Owens said. “Obviously, he put in the hard work, and the staff here did a great job developing and getting to a point where he’s going to be a first-round draft pick. I think that speaks volumes for the program. “

Joining the Buckeyes April 2Owens will get the chance to impact players within the program directly under his own philosophy and ideas.

Owens said he’s leaned on mentors like Boilermakers head coach Matt Painter and former Butler and Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens in addition to Ricky Samuels, who is his former college coach at Eastern Illinois, along with his coaching journey.

“You always want to surround yourself with good people. I’m going to always go back to that, ”Owens said. “Now that I’m going to go against Purdue that might be a little different going against coach Painter and those guys, but at the end of the day we all want to win.”

Head coach Chris Holtmann also piqued Owens’ interest in Ohio State’s program, noting he’s already noticed that “everyone’s on the same page” on the coaching staff.

Owens said his history as a college basketball player will help him relate to the new faces he’ll get much more familiar with over the course of the offseason, leaning on Holtmann’s wisdom to build connections.

“I think he has a great relationship with each guy, and that’s very important for the head coach to have a relationship with his players,” Owens said. At the same time, they trust him. That’s why they’re here, so I think he does a great job with those relationships with each guy. “

Having been to 11 NCAA Tournaments, Owens knows the path it takes to reach the postseason and the daily demands of the regular season.

Even though his job title is “assistant” rather than “head” coach, Owens said he doesn’t view that as a step back. Rather, he said he hopes to take advantage of Ohio State’s potential to help take the Buckeyes to new lengths.

“I just think it’s a big time opportunity for a coach like myself or a prospect to come here and have the opportunity to be here at Ohio State,” Owens said. “I think we have a chance to put ourselves in a position to win the Big Ten, go to the NCAA Tournament and have a chance to advance in the NCAA Tournament, for sure.”


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