Owens is a big-time QB--in football and basketball

Owens is a big-time QB--in football and basketball
January 31, 2013, 12:15 pm
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This is a reality check for Hinsdale Central's Brian Owens.

The two-time all-conference quarterback, who amassed more than 4,500 yards of total offense in the last two years, had hoped to play football in Division I. But he like will settle for Washington University in St. Louis, a Division III school.

He is having more success in basketball. The 6-foot-2 senior point guard is averaging 11.4 points and five assists per game on a 13-5 team that has won seven in a row going into Friday's game against Metea Valley and is in position to win its first conference championship since 2000.

Calculus is tougher than being sacked by a 250-pound linebacker. Owens is an outstanding student. He has a 5.0 grade-point average on a 5.0 scale and scored 31 on his ACT. He wants to major in finance in college. But advance placement calculus?

"Calculus is the hardest class I've taken. It's confusing to me, so many formulas. It's a college-level course, tougher than learning a football playbook," Owens said. "But I take pride in working hard in school. The last B I got was in calculus but it counts as an A because it's an AP class."

Owens is a rarity, a multi-sport standout who also stars in the classroom. "My parents say my grades will get me further in life than athletics," he said.

He loves football and basketball but insists he has more passion for football and has a better chance of playing quarterback in college. But Hinsdale Central basketball coach Nick Latorre begs him to consider basketball. "I think he can do it in college," he said.

Football may be his choice for the future but Owens admits this basketball season has been an awesome experience. "This year, more than ever, I like the unselfishness of our team. No one is playing for themselves. Everyone is playing for each other," he said.

"My job is so much easier when everyone is pulling in the same direction and on the same page. Beating Oak Park (53-45) on the road last week, after blowing a double-digit lead in the second half the first time we played them, was reassuring, a confidence-builder. We know we can beat anyone. It was an another opportunity to get our program on the map.

"We have everything...shooting, size, togetherness. We work so hard in practice on defense and it is starting to pay off. I've never been on a team that has been this unselfish, football or basketball."

According to Owens, his responsibilities at quarterback and point guard are similar. It's all about leadership. In football, he takes every snap. In basketball, the ball is in his hands about 85 percent of the time. So what is he going to do with it?

"I make sure everybody is in the right place and knows what defense we are in," he said. "I'm a coach on the floor. Coach Latorre has put a lot of trust in me. I'm an extension of him on the court. In football, I want to
spread the ball around and get everybody involved. It's the same in basketball. I set up the shooters in open positions and get the ball to people in the right place."

In last week's 53-45 victory at Oak Park, which gave Hinsdale Central a one-game lead over York and Oak Park in the West Suburban's Silver Division, Owens scored 18 points, including eight free throws down the stretch. Chase Hamilton added 11 points, Matt Rafferty 10.

Owens knows how to handle pressure. He is an 82 percent shooter from the free throw line, 50 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three-point range. If only it was as easy in calculus.

He is the leader of a lineup that includes Rafferty (14.5 ppg, 10.7 rpg), a 6-foot-7 sophomore with Division I credentials, 6-foot-2 senior Alec Hutcherson (8.4 ppg), 6-foot-2 senior Jared Eck (4.6 ppg) and 6-foot-2
senior Rigas Pappas (5.7 ppg).

The first two players off the bench are Hamilton (8.4 ppg), a 6-foot-3 junior, and Ian Bunting (3 ppg, 6 rpg), a 6-foot-7 junior.

Hamilton likely will succeed Owens at quarterback next fall. An outstanding athlete, he played on a doubles team that finished second in the state tennis tournament as a sophomore. Bunting is a Division I recruit as a tight end in football.

Latorre, in his third year, hopes to build a consistently successful program at a high profile school like Hinsdale Central as he did in relative obscurity at Driscoll.

A 1983 graduate of Addison Trail, Latorre played for one-time Downers Grove and Illinois star Rick Howat. At 5-foot-10, he realized basketball wasn't his future so he played baseball at Southern Illinois, then worked for 10 years at Harris Bank in Chicago after graduation.

He coached for nine years at Driscoll, winning four conference titles and three regional and sectional titles and posting five 20-victory seasons.

"We had a successful run but nobody knew it because we won seven consecutive state football championships at the same time. It was hard to get any attention," Latorre said.

When the Addison school closed, he coached at Oswego East for two years, then was hired at Hinsdale Central after coach Ed Lynch resigned. He was 5-18 in his first year, 17-10 last year. With two starters and 11 players returning, he was optimistic about this season.

"We lost our two best scorers but the new kids had necessary varsity experience to step in and fill roles. And thet have done it admirably," Latorre said. "Defensively, we have played well. He interior has been solid. We have played great half-court team defense over the last month and a half.

"And I love our balance. Four different guys have led our team in scoring. Someone has scored more than 20 points in only one game. They are unselfish, share the ball, rebound well and understand what the opponent wants to do."

Latorre is perplexed by only one thing. In four of his team's five losses, the Red Devils have been ahead in the second half by double digits. Against Hillcrest, they led by 18 points with a minute left in the third quarter and lost.

"We went through a stretch where we struggled to finish," he said. "The kids continue to work hard and prepare for the next game. They don't look back. How far can we go? I never think ahead. I try to focus on the next game. I don't want to put any onus on these kids."

Hinsdale Central has advanced to the state quarterfinals on three occasions. Coach Ken Johnson's 26-2 team reached the Elite Eight in 1972 and coach Bob Mueller accomplished the feat in back-to-back seasons (27-4 in 1996 and 28-3 in 1997).

"The Oak Park victory showed their toughness and resiliency," Latorre said. "We were ahead by seven at halftime but they went on a 6-0 run to start the second half. But we showed our toughness on the road against a quality opponent. We are growing in terms of being resilient and staying within our system."