2011-11-03 / News

Jamestowner sets sights on making varsity squad this winter


Owen Heath hopes to make an impression on head coach Aaron Thomas during the Nov. 28 tryouts. Thomas said he is optimistic that Owen, a 6-foot-4 power forward, will make the varsity squad. 
PHOTO BY MARGO SULLIVAN Owen Heath hopes to make an impression on head coach Aaron Thomas during the Nov. 28 tryouts. Thomas said he is optimistic that Owen, a 6-foot-4 power forward, will make the varsity squad. PHOTO BY MARGO SULLIVAN Jamestown’s Owen Heath hopes to break into the Skippers’ varsity lineup in time for the Dec. 8 season opener against Westerly High.

Basketball team tryouts start Nov. 28, and Owen, a North Kingstown High School junior, is pretty much a shoo-in to make the squad, according to his coach, Aaron Thomas.

Thomas said this year’s team will have some experienced players. “We do return three guys who started and an outstanding sixth man,” he said.

Matt Quianoo, Chris Hess and Michael Scott, all from North Kingstown, are expected to be starters. And the team will also rely on Owen at power forward.

“He’s trying out for varsity,” Thomas said, but added Owen “definitely” will make the cut.

Last year’s varsity team finished with an 11-7 record and played the state’s best in Division I, he said. Thomas anticipates the toughest games this season will be with the defending champions St. Raphael, and the other top teams: Bishop Hendricken and Central.

“Hendricken is always a threat,” he said, and Central is a “well-coached team.”

The Skippers will again look to man-to-man defense to win games, Thomas said. Last year, North Kingstown worked to hold opponents to 55 points or fewer, he said, and when that happened, they won.

“Defense has always been our key,” he said. “We’re expecting a very good year and hoping to be in the running for [the state championship] at the end.”

Different this year, the state athletics association opted to drop the division playoffs and crown one state champion, meaning the postseason will look like a 32-team NCAA style tournament, with 32 of 47 teams going to the playoffs.

That format was last used in the late 1960s, he said, and South Kingstown was the last basketball champion for all of Rhode Island.

Owen said the teams standing in the Skippers’ way of a state championship are St. Raphael, Hendricken, Central and La Salle.

These teams are always tough because they have a basketball tradition, he said.

Last year, Owen played junior varsity basketball on a Skippers’ team that went all the way to the finals, before losing the state championship to Central.

At 6-foot-4, he is fourth tallest on the North Kingstown team. He uses his height and strength at the power forward position to clear out defenders and create opportunities for the Skippers’ guards, he said.

Owen, 16, is adept at drawing charging fouls, then marching to the free throw line and draining the foul shots.

He does collect his share of field goals, though.

“They let me shoot,” he said. “I can shoot the ball, but it’s not my number one priority.”

In the game he considers his best, “a regular season game against La Salle,” he scored 30 points and converted 15 free throws, all because he knows how to draw fouls.

Owen did have some playing time last year with the varsity team, he said.

“I got the garbage minutes” at the beginning of the season, he said, meaning he went in when the game had already been decided.

However, he did say that by the end of the year he went into some “close games,” to give one of the starters a break.

Until Nov. 28, Owen and his teammates will practice without any coaches. Before the tryouts, Owen said, the players can’t talk to the coaches; that rule was made to keep the system fair. For example, if he played fall soccer, he’d be committed to soccer practices and matches, and would be at a disadvantage come basketball tryouts if another player had started working with the basketball coach early.

“We have offseason basketball that helps,” he said. “We play tournaments and try and run during the off-season a mile every day.”

Owen, son of Steve and Mary Heath, was born in Chicago but moved to Jamestown when he was 2. He went to preschool and kindergarten at Rocky Hill because his father was teaching there but started first grade in the Jamestown school system. He attended the Melrose and Lawn Avenue schools before continuing his education at North Kingstown High.

His mother started him playing basketball, he said.

“We had the hoop in the yard,” he said, and his parents set the basket lower than regulation until Owen was about 8 years old.

“I played a lot of horse with my dad and mom,” he said.

Owen also has an older sister, Eloise, who is at the College of Charleston in South Carolina.

He plans on college and would consider playing collegiate basketball if an opportunity came up, he said, but he hasn’t started thinking seriously about schools.

He also played on the varsity golf team and ended that season as runnersup to the state champions.

“Golf’s a big sport for me,” he said. He’s played on the varsity team two years, and he couldn’t choose one game over the other.

“After the basketball season, it’s good just to go to golf,” he said. “It’s a little more relaxing.”

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