Owens owes wins to tough love

Devri-Ow-Ens Colby Patterson
Freshman guard Devri Owens poses for a photo at the Huntsman Center. Photo by Cole Tan.

Freshman guard Devri Owens poses for a photo at the Huntsman Center. Photo by Cole Tan.

Ute freshman Devri Owens will tell you how much she loves the 3-point shot, and she’s got the numbers to prove it.

In her first year at Utah, Owens has made 22 total field goals, 21 of which have come from downtown. Many of them have come from well beyond the arc. It is a skill she practiced over and over and over growing up in her hometown of Plano, Texas.

“I fell in love with the 3-pointer when I was like in sixth or seventh grade,” Owens said. “I realized that I could make that shot. Ever since then I just kept shooting it and shooting it.”

Developing this talent was not something Owens did on her own. She credits her father Harold for helping her become the player she is today.

Harold Owens is a former athlete himself. From 1986 to 1989, he played football at La Crosse College in Wisconsin. As a running back, he rushed for over 1,000 yards in his career and was one of the school’s best kick returners. His name is all over the Eagles’ record books and he set a school record for most kick return yardage in a single game.

His football career was done after trying out for the Dallas Cowboys, Harold looked forward to the next chapter in his life of starting a family and raising his children to play sports.

“I thought I was having sons and that I would teach them the game of football, but I kept having girls,” he said. “So they all got into soccer, and then basketball was there and, you know, we kind of stayed with the basketball thing.”

The oldest of Harold and his wife Tori’s three daughters was Devri, who became an accomplished soccer player in her younger years. When she entered eighth grade, her father told her it was time to decide which sport she wanted to focus on in an attempt to earn a college scholarship. As much as she loves soccer, she ultimately decided to focus on basketball.

Even though Devri’s focus was on hoops, her father said soccer was a big help in her development on the court. She learned good footwork and how to take on a challenge with a competitive attitude.

Devri has learned the hard work of studying the game and understanding it thanks to her father. Knowing his girls were not going to be throwing on the shoulder pads, Harold Owens began to study the game of basketball thoroughly and would spend a lot of time in the gym just shooting the ball until it became second nature.

“If I had a game in high school, the Monday or Tuesday [prior] I would have to put up 300 shots that night,” Devri recalled. “I mean, it was fun because I would go into the game and feel like I could not miss, so it was worth it.”

The hard work paid off, as Devri became a McDonald’s High School All-American nominee in the midst of other accolades.

Colleges soon came calling, including Utah. The Utes have been working to recruit heavily out of the state of Texas, and Devri stood out for her great shooting skills.

“Devri has a unique ability to shoot the basketball, and from deep,” Levrets said. “She also plays very well with the ball in her hands. Right now she is very one-dimensional with what we are doing. She is getting better all the time with the basketball in her hands. I think she is going to be a special offensive player by the time she is all done here.”

With her parents encouraging her to make the big decision on her own of where to play college ball, eventually she committed to play for the Utes.

Her father said it was hard for her to continue looking at other schools even though he believes the coaches and players at Utah have the potential to belong in the top echelon of the Pac-12. Despite the fact that Owens’ family knew Utah was the right fit for her, Harold said it is difficult not having “daddy’s little girl” at home, but the road she has taken to the college ranks has paved the way for her younger sisters still at home to perhaps one day follow their sister.

“What makes it easier is knowing I have two girls here that are also playing at the same time,” Harold said. “She laid the way for my younger two, and we want to keep supporting her. She is my first kid. I was always tough on her. Probably should have done things different, but Devri understands.”

Owens has learned how her coaches truly care about her. When they have encouraged her, pushed her to her limit and yelled at her, she knows it is because they care enough to help her reach her full potential. That lesson was learned and still continues to be taught by her father.

“[Our] relationship is so interesting,” Devri said. “We are so similar, so we butt heads, but I am such a daddy’s girl. If I play bad, I get so upset with myself because I do not want my dad to be upset. Ever since I was young he has pushed me to the limit. That is where our relationship really thrives.”

b.barlow@chronicle.utah.edu