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Basketball with a bite

All-around game has ‘Munch’ set for next step

Correspondent file photo / Robert Hayes Warren G. Harding’s D’Muntize Owens goes up for a layup during the first quarter against Lakewood St. Edward last season. Owens committed to playing basketball at Salem (W. Va.) University next season.

D’Muntize Owens, a 6-foot Warren G. Harding senior guard, is usually called Munch.

His boys basketball coach, Keelyn Franklin, was unsure of the nickname’s origin.

Why not go right to the source, Owens, who averaged 16 points per game for the Raiders this past season. He was named Division I-II Trumbull County Player of the Year.

Not much stands in his way, just like a pineapple, when he was about 4 years old.

“It was like 5 minutes and I ate all of it. It was a big pineapple,” Owens said.

His mother, Deshawna, then nicknamed him Munch.

The WGH senior has devoured every task in sight since.

“Throughout his career, year after year, he’s had more put on his shoulders,” Franklin said. “He’s accepted it. He’s been a great leader for us on and off the court. Just after this season, get what he’s worked hard for.”

Owens is heading to Salem (West Virginia) University, about 50 minutes southwest of the West Virginia University campus in Morgantown, next season.

Franklin, who played at Shawnee State University about a decade ago, said Owens being dedicated to the weight room is going to help him at Salem, a team that went 18-8 last season.

“You’re going to be dedicated to that weight room being a smaller guard,” Franklin said. “A lot of coaches are going see you out there. They’re going to try to exploit your size. You have to kind of try to build your body physically. Defensive-wise, I think a huge step for him would be dictating the other team’s offense with his defensive pressure. Calling up an opposing point guard and creating havoc that way.

“Offensively, I think he has a college skill set right now. I think the next step for him is taking on that defensive assignment as far as applying pressure to the ball consistently. As far as the basketball aspect, that’s going to help him a great deal.”

Owens adjusted his game from a jump shooter to driving and scoring. He saw his then-senior teammate Dom McGhee in the third game of his junior year and knew he had to do something different to help the Raiders.

“He needed some help and people were relying on me,” said Owens, who is leaning toward a degree in sports management. “I had to mix my game up. When my shot didn’t fall, I had to go to the hole. I was trying to get in the lane, make an extra pass and things like that.”

His off-court presence was just as big for Harding, holding his teammates accountable.

“It’s hard to put into words what he’s meant to our program,” Franklin said. “I don’t think you have one guy that makes up for what Munch did. You have to have a combination of different individuals to take on the different things he did to make sure we still have that mentality and characteristics in our program.”

It was never about just being a performer on the basketball court. For Owens, it was making his teammates better players, and more importantly, people.

“Even when I’m focused, I’m trying to hold other people around me focused,” he said. “I want other people doing the things I do to be successful in life so they won’t be in any bad stuff in Warren. There’s a lot of stuff going on. I just want everybody to stay on track.”

jvargo@tribtoday.com

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