Owes 'really glad' to be Beachdog

By Patrick Klein

Arizona Daily Wildcat

It's not the NBA, but it's a start.

That's what former Arizona forward Ray Owes was telling himself after the news of his second-round selection by the Continental Basketball Association's Florida Beachdogs on Tuesday.

Owes, a 6-foot-9, 224-pound three-year starter for the Wildcats, was the Beachdogs' top pick and the 21st player taken overall.

"I'm really glad," Owes said. "This is a good opportunity for me to be able to play and improve my game."

Owes, who averaged 15.1 points per game last season, is just happy he has a place to go this fall. After not being selected in the NBA draft last June, the ensuing lockout ended any hopes Owes might have had to join a team as a free agent, as teams were not allowed to communicate with players.

He was stuck in Tucson with no one to practice with and unsure of where and when he would begin his professional career.

"Not being drafted was kind of tough," Owes said. "The lockout made it tougher because there were a couple of teams that were interested in me.

"There was nowhere to play in Tucson (in the summer) until the guys (the UA basketball team) came back. I ran a lot, but I didn't play basketball for a while."

With the Beachdogs, Owes will get a chance to earn a ticket to the next level, as the CBA in recent years has become somewhat of a minor league for the NBA. Formerly the Rapid City (S.D.) Thrillers the team relocated to West Palm Beach after last season Florida has had 11 players from its roster picked up by NBA teams the last two years, including guard George McCloud, who ended last season as the Dallas Mavericks' third-leading scorer.

As a forward, Owes is what scouts refer to as a "'tweener" player one who is somewhere between the shooting forward and the power forward positions. This makes Owes perfect material for the CBA, said Beachdogs head coach Eric Musselman.

"He's in between a three and a four he doesn't have enough strength at the four and not enough perimeter skills at the three," Musselman said. "But the CBA benefits guys like him because he'll get to play a little of both and find his best position. He has the potential to be at the next level and we hope he will be at the next level."

Musselman said the Florida franchise, situated in West Palm Beach between NBA teams in Miami and Orlando, gives the players added exposure because advanced scouts for the professional teams often stop by CBA games to scout for players.

The Beachdogs did their homework before selecting Owes. They contacted Arizona assistant basketball coach Jim Rosborough, associate athletic director Dick Bartsch (who is the father of UA volleyball player Laura Bartsch, Owes' girlfriend), as well as several NBA scouts.

"The biggest thing for us is a player's character," Musselman said. "We want good guys, and everyone we talked to about Ray said he was a great guy. We had him ranked second in the entire draft, so we were extremely happy when he was still available."

While the Beachdogs may know Owes, he said he knows little about his new team other than it is in West Palm Beach.

"I've talked to the coach and the general manager, and they sound like nice guys, but it's hard to tell," Owes said. "Palm Beach is a nice place. It could have been worse."

He was right it snowed Tuesday in Rapid City.

Owes became the second Arizona player in as many years to be drafted by a team in the Sunshine State. Last year, guard Khalid Reeves was a first-round draft pick of the NBA's Miami Heat.

"I'm real happy for him and I hope he does well and moves up to the next level," Reeves said. "We're definitely going to have to hook up. At least he'll know someone down there."

Before entering the professional ranks, Owes sought the advice of former Wildcat and current Chicago Bull guard Steve Kerr, who advised Owes not to take the CBA lightly.

"Steve said it was a tough league," Owes said. "Everyone there is trying to get to the NBA."

While the NBA remains his main goal, Owes is learning the value of flexibility.

"There's a chance I may never get to the NBA," he said. "If not, I'll go to Europe. You can make a lot of money over there."

But for a guy who three days ago did not have a team to call his own, the CBA suits Owes just fine.

"I was just kind of hanging for a while," Owes said. "This gives me a sense of direction."

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