SWANNANOA – The Owen Warhorses are rebuilding, but the foundation is there for a good season.
With three underclassmen leading the scoring, a bench that goes nine to 10 players deep and a defense-first mentality, the Warhorses have already eclipsed last basketball season’s wins total.
Owen notched three victories last season and matched that in its first six contests. The team is off to an 8-7 start, and players know why it has happened.
“I think it’s our chemistry and how we’re sharing the ball better,” said sophomore point guard Ben Craig, who averages 10.3 points, 5.3 assists and 4.7 rebounds. “We’re closer on and off the court and that helps.”
“We have really good team bonding this year,” said junior Mathew Brown, who averages 11.1 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocks. “We get along really well and have good chemistry.”
Over the summer, Owen played 25 games and that’s where this season’s success began. Players jelled on the court and it shows, as the Warhorses average 12.4 assists per contest this season.
Coach Chuck Robinson said he wants his players on the court year-round and wants them to play as much as possible.
“I’m a firm believer in putting in a lot of work in the offseason,” he said. “I just have the guys from November to March and in the month of June. I encourage the boys and am a big supporter of travel basketball. I encourage them to go to camps on their own and spend as much time in the gym as they can.”
Another factor in this season’s success is that the team has been together since October, unlike last season when seven players were on the football team that played deep into the postseason.
The extra work helped as Robinson installed more of an uptempo style of offense and defense.
“We were trying it last year,” Robinson said. “It’s just working better for us this year with the personnel. We did so much conditioning and we’re still doing that. We have a deep bench which really helps with that fast-paced style. … I try to go as deep as I can in every game to experience the game and have the opportunity to get on the scoreboard.”
“It helps us get more people involved in the game and more scoring,” said junior Brian Barlett, who leads the team in scoring at 15.5 points per game and also hauls in 7.2 rebounds per game.
Add senior Johani Franks (10.3 points per game) to the mix and the Warhorses make it tough for opponents to key on one scorer.
Though the scoring is there, the key to the Warhorses’ play is their defense. Owen presses almost the entire game and utilizes a half-court trap, too.
“We play defense first and then we score,” Robinson said. “That’s one thing that has kept us in a lot of games and has helped us to win. We generate a lot of points off our defense.”
The team set goals over the summer to increase its win total, gain some victories against the bigger county schools and make the postseason.
Robinson understands that this can be considered a rebuilding year, as the Warhorses have only five seniors (three of which haven’t played for Owen before) and a core of youngsters to lead the charge. That hasn’t stopped them for reaching their goals.
“We just have to keep getting better,” Craig said, “and build on what we have and take it as far as we can.”