By Harper Mayfield | Sports Writer
Few places are more different than Los Angeles and Waco. Even fewer people have enough experience with both to make that distinction. Baylor guard Jaden Owens is one of those proud few.
Owens, who committed to UCLA out of high school, spent one season with the Bruins before making the call to transfer. Since arriving in Waco, she’s played a key role for the Lady Bears, shooting over 41% from beyond the three point line. That mark is the team’s highest by over four percentage points. In terms of what Owens brings to the court, Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey knows just how valuable she is.
“Jaden is more of a facilitator (at point guard),” Mulkey said. “She wants to give you the shot before she takes her shot.”
Like a lot of things in 2020, Owens’s transfer process wasn’t made any easier with COVID-19 complications. However, Owens had been very interested in Baylor as a recruit. That prior knowledge made it easier for Owens to return to her home state of Texas for the rest of her college basketball career.
“I was talking to Baylor before I committed to UCLA,” Owens said. “They were really my final two. I was between [them], so I already knew everything about [Baylor]. I knew they were family, everything I really needed.”
As a recruit, Owens was the No. 14 overall player in the nation, and the No. 3 guard. An All-American out of Plano West, Owens had offers from powerhouses like Louisville, Mississippi State and Texas. While the year at UCLA was something new, a return to the Lone Star State brought back some familiar feelings for Owens.
“I’m a huge family person,” Owens said. “I love to be around my family all the time, so that did play a major role in [my decision], just because I know that my family would be able to go and see my games. I would be able to go home and see them. So that did play a major role.”
Family also helped push Owens on the court, as her sisters, Devri and Callie, played college basketball at SMU and North Texas, respectively. In a house with that much basketball talent, things are bound to get competitive. Despite some disagreements along the way, the Owens girls all pushed each other to become stronger players.
“My sister just called me last night, and we were talking about how Giannis [Antetokounmpo] and his brothers grew up playing together,” Owens said. “She was like ‘I wonder if they ever argue. We don’t argue,” and then she was like, ‘Wait, we do.’ Me and my sisters were playing at the park, and we just got into an argument on the court, and we didn’t talk for like a week outside of the court. It’s made me who I am. It’s made me tougher … We all have a relationship where we’re just honest with each other because we want what’s best for each other.”
Initially, the plan was for Owens to sit this season out and join the team for the 2021-22 season. On November 19, the NCAA released a blanket waiver for transfer athletes, granting Owens eligibility for the 2020-21 season. Having Owens on the court has been a huge boost for the Lady Bears, but it’s not even close to what it did for her.
“At first, I didn’t think I was going to be able to play,” Owens said. “Until we heard about the whole blanket waiver and stuff like that … Coach Rice was talking to me about the whole process … We were all in a huddle about to break out, and Coach Rice told Coach Mulkey, and she just told the whole team, and I just started to cry. Normally I don’t cry, but I just felt like I had a breath of fresh air.”
Owens, savoring every moment of a season she didn’t think she’d see, will be on the floor again this afternoon when the Lady Bears take on Oklahoma State at 5 p.m. in the Ferrell Center.