Owens has 'great visit'

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Donnie Tyndall and his Tennessee staff may be a little closer to getting a commitment from Tariq Owens after giving the 6-foot-10 Class of 2014 basketball star a quality experience on his recent tour of the Knoxville campus.

"It was a great visit," Renard Owens, Tariq's father, told InsideTennessee by phone moments after he and his son returned to the family home in Baltimore on Friday afternoon. "They showed him a good time, showed him Knoxville and Tennessee, as far as academics and facilities and all of that. He had fun."

The elder Owens said Tariq was unavailable for comment regarding his Vol visit, noting: "He's out getting a haircut and getting ready for his prom, which is tonight."

Father and son plan to make one final visit -- touring Tennessee-Martin on Tuesday. Anthony Stewart, the assistant coach who convinced Tariq Owens to sign with Ohio U last November, recently joined the UT-M staff as associate head coach.

"We'll see what they have to offer at UT-Martin on May 20, then Tariq will make his decision immediately after that," Renard Owens said. "He's considering Tennessee, Temple and UT-Martin, and it will be one of those three that he commits to on May 21."

Most likely, Tariq's college decision will be announced in what his father called "a little press conference at his school." That would be Mt. Zion Prep.

Renard Owens said he and his son found a lot to like during their Knoxville visit, which began Thursday morning and concluded Friday morning.

"The academic aspect of it impressed me the most," the elder Owens said. "I didn't know till we got there that Tennessee commits to their student-athletes that you're going to get a degree from Tennessee, and they mean it. Even if you leave without a degree they're committed to paying for you to come back and get one. A lot of institutions don't care much about you once you leave."

As a parent, he said one thing that caught his eye was "the resources they have to help athletes be successful on and off the field and the one-on-one attention that the student-athlete gets, as far as tutoring and study hall. It's pretty much around the clock. They make sure you don't fall behind."

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Mr. Owens wants his son to excel in college basketball, and he sees excelling in the classroom as a step in that direction.

"If you're stumbling academically, that's a lot of stress and you're not going to perform at your best," he said. "If you're not taking care of your academics, how can you perform at your best athletically? You have to do both. You can't take care of one without the other."

In addition to Tennessee's academic support system, Renard Owens was impressed by Tennessee's high-tech weight room.

"The other thing that was nice to see was their strength and conditioning program to help athletes perform at their peak," Mr. Owens said. "Their facilities are second to none, top-notch."

Ultimately, showing father and son that they care about Tariq's overall development, not just his basketball development, may have been the biggest step Tennessee's staff took toward securing his commitment.

"Me and Tariq have a really close relationship," Mr. Owens said. "I only have one son. The decision ultimately is his but I see some pros and cons that he might not see. I wouldn't be doing my job as his father if I didn't do those things. I want my son to make the best decision for him because this will affect him the rest of his life.

"I need to know the coaching staff cares about him as a person, not just as a basketball player. It's more than him being 6-foot-10. These relationships will last the rest of his life, so I want people to care about him as a person. That's why academics are so important. He's a better kid than he is a basketball player. That means a lot to me … that he stays in the right environment to stay true to himself."

Tennessee's campus is 525 miles from Baltimore. Conversely, the elder Owens said Temple is "about an hour and 45-minute drive."

So how much of a factor is distance?

"Distance is not a factor," Renard Owens said. "It's a plus to be close, so I could go to some of his games but it's not a determining factor. It's more of a factor to me than Tariq. He's been home all his life and wants to spread his wings. Being selfish as a parent, I want him close to me, but in the grand scheme of things it doesn't do him any good if he's close to home but not in the best situation for him."

Is Tennessee the "best situation" for Tariq Owens? The answer arrives Wednesday.

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