How One Basketball Junkie Went From Challenging Neighborhood Ballers For Cash To Starring In The BIG3

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Andre Owens is a name not familiar to the general or even hardcore basketball fan. Picked second overall in the inaugural BIG3 draft by Allen Iverson’s 3’s Company, Owens had a particularly abstract road to get to where he is today.

Born with five brothers and a mother and father that rarely saw each other due to conflicting work schedules, Owens grew up in a small home with limited resources based on the size of their family. His father would build Owens a makeshift basketball court in their backyard that he’d play on in any weather, at any time.

“My dad used to have to literally whip my butt at three or four in the morning on school nights to get me to come inside,” Owens told DIME. “When it was snowing, I’d just get the shovel and shovel it off as best I could. I lived on that court.”

Aside from playing at his literal home court, Owens became a good high school player. But, his family wasn’t in the greatest financial shape. His five brothers and himself basically took care of themselves as far school and learning went, and the bills mounted as two parents taking care of six children wasn’t cheap.

In high school Evans went straight from school to challenge neighborhood ballers.

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“I used to go out and challenge people to play one-on-one for money so that my brothers and I could eat,” Owens says.

The Indiana high school All-Star was recruited by Indiana University and then coach Bob Knight. Owens committed as one of Knight’s best recruiting classes, ranked number four in the nation. But, before his freshman year even started, Knight was fired and Owens felt the difference immediately.

Owens wanted to play for coach Knight and when he found out the legendary coach would subsequently be fired, he wasn’t sure what to do heading into the summer of his freshman year. He ultimately decided to stick with Indiana and saw a promising, hopeful freshman year turn into a season that was Jekyll and Hyde at best.

“It wasn’t the best fit for me,” Owens says. “There was some games where I’d have 20 points at halftime and wouldn’t play the rest of the game. It was confusing, it seemed like there was some funny stuff going on.”

Owens thought he was a one-and-done type-of player but he didn’t get enough of an opportunity to prove that at Indiana under a new coaching staff that didn’t recruit him. He saw little to no playing time in key situations and after his first season there, he knew he needed to prove he was a valuable commodity elsewhere.

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Owens made the decision to transfer to the University of Houston and played three seasons with them increasing his scoring and field goal percentage year-over-year.

After his final season, he turned heads in his draft workouts but ended up going to Utah as an undrafted free-agent. While he was playing spot minutes with Utah and getting his grove on his first NBA season, he broke his leg about 30 games in. This cost him his season and led to him getting traded to the Golden State Warriors. The fit seemed good and even Owens admitted that he felt like he could’ve been on the team for a long time.

However, knowing that his recovery process would be long, the Warriors opted to buy Owens out of his contract and cut ties with him.

“Originally, they (the training staff) told me it would take three to four months for recovery and it ended up taking about eight,” Owens says. “It was hard seeing it all from the sidelines but I knew that I’d get through it and prove people wrong.”

Moving around the NBA from Utah to Golden State to Indiana, Owens barely saw the floor. He recovered from the leg break and featured in 31 games for Indiana, but his agent advised him to go overseas after the 2007-2008 season.

Even though he moved rom team to team and country to country, Owens still played nine more seasons in total after his brief NBA career. From Serbia to Turkey to Spain, he averaged more than 20 minutes per game throughout his European trek.

Today, Owens still feels like he’s an NBA player. In the BIG3, he’s showcasing his ability to be one of the best in the league.

Currently, Owens ranks third in minutes played, fourth in rebounds, third in assists and has one of the highest true shooting percentages in the 3-on-3 showcase. Owens won’t fill up the stats sheet like Rashard Lewis, but he’s got a hard-nosed, do-it-all mentality that can’t be replicated.

He’s certainly made an impression on his player-coach Allen Iverson who said, “a guy like this (Owens), he’s supposed to definitely be in the NBA. He left way too soon. It’s truly a campaign for him.”

The BIG3 is giving lots of players like Owens their second chance. While there’s not a Larry O’Brien Trophy in it for them, there’s something almost as important: validation. And Owens is getting that validation, even if he doesn’t have to challenge local players at the park anymore to find it.