It has been a long time coming for Tariq Owens, and St. John’s head coach Chris Mullin.
Owens was the first player Mullin was able to secure as the Johnnies’ head coach. The 6-11 forward announced back in early April 2015 that he intended to leave Tennessee to go back to the city he was born in, Queens, N.Y.
He selected St. John's over interest from Cincinnati, Minnesota, George Washington, and a handful of other Division I schools.
The hiring of Mullin piqued Owens and his family’s interest. A college and professional basketball Hall of Famer as the new head coach for St. John’s got their attention.
“When we found out that Chris Mullin was accepting the job, we were sincerely interested,” said Renard Owens, Tariq’s father, to ESPN back in April 2015. "We considered visiting many schools, but my son ultimately decided to end it early, where he can concentrate on offseason workouts and getting more familiar with future teammates."
Per transfer rules, he had to sit out the 2015-16 season. Including this upcoming season, he has three years of eligibility left.
Coming out of high school, Owens was regarded as a 3-star recruit. He went to St. Vincent Pallotti High School (Md.) and spent one year in prep school at Mt. Zion (Md.) He initially committed to play at Ohio University, but he changed his mind when then-head coach Jim Christian left for the Boston College job. He then chose to play for Tennessee instead, selecting the Volunteers over offers from Temple, Florida State, Miami, Richmond, St. Joseph’s, VCU, and Seton Hall.
Highly regarded for his length, rebounding, and shot-blocking abilities, Owens’ slender frame was a bit of a concern going into college. Standing at only 190 pounds before his freshman season, he was undersized for his height. He didn’t have the muscle and the mass to withstand some of the other physical big men in college basketball. His back to basket offense was also in need of improvement.
On the bright side, his defensive prowess and athleticism is a promising aspect for Owens. He just needs to get his body in the right shape to match his frame. During his redshirt year, it was reported that he put on 25 pounds. Ideally, for St. John’s, this trend would increase.
At Tennessee, Owens was relegated to a bench role. Although he appeared in 28 games (starting in five of those), he only averaged 7.6 minutes. He showed glimpses of his ability to block and crash the glass. Despite having limited minutes, his 13 blocks for the year were tied for the third-most on the team. However, his offense left more to be desired. He averaged 1.2 points per game, shooting a subpar 12-of-34 (35.3 percent) on the floor. His free throw shooting was also an area he struggled in, converting 10-of-19 (52.6 percent) of his free throws for the year.
Now, at St. John’s, Mullin plans on using him as a stretch four, citing his smooth mid-range jump shot. Mullin believes Owens can cause a number of teams issues with the mismatch he provides. He’s got the size and athleticism to defend and clash against almost any player on the court. His 7-foot-4 wingspan is something you can’t miss either, and will be put to good use by clogging passing lanes or rejecting opponents’ shots.
The addition of Owens on the court could grant St. John’s to have one of the best front courts in the Big East defensively. St. John’s returns the top shot-blocking tandem in the conference, with sophomores Kassoum Yakwe and Yankuba Sima back after finishing one-two in the Big East in blocks.
With Owens in the fold—and if he performs as expected—would make for an imposing front court that could help be the catalyst for turning around St. John’s downward slide. After a year of waiting for an opportunity, Owens is about to get one.