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Owens Community College men's basketball coach Kevin Skaggs believes the Express program is one of the hidden gems in the area for quality and affordable family entertainment.
The Owens men's basketball team is a perennial contender for league titles and is one of the premiere junior college programs in the region. The team plays its games at the Student Health and Activities Center in Perrysburg Township. Admission is free for all home games.
"We have the best value for family entertainment in the area," Skaggs said. "It's good basketball with top quality teams. It does not cost anything. You can take a family there and buy some popcorn or a hotdog at the concession stand and it's a good deal."
The team's next home game is 7 p.m. Monday. The Express also has three home contests in December (5, 6, and 30).
Skaggs led Owens to a second-place finish in the Ohio Community College Athletic Conference (10-4) last season. The Express finished 20-9 overall.
However, late in the season the team had a player that was ruled academically ineligible. The team had to forfeit 10 games and its official 2007-08 record was 10-19 overall and 3-11 in the conference.
Owens opened this season with a 92-84 win over Delta College on Nov. 7. But the Express evened its record at 1-1 with a 97-76 loss to Hillsborough College on Nov. 8.
Eight players return from that team, and eight freshmen are new this season. "We are definitely more athletic," Skaggs said. "We are definitely not as big, but we are quicker. Our big thing is take advantage of our athletic ability."
Skaggs, who is in his second season as the head coach at Owens, served as an assistant under longtime coach Jim Welling. He joined Welling's staff in 2001.
Welling had a career record of 550-127 in 20 years at Owens. He guided the Express to National Junior College Athletic Association Division II national titles in 1992 and 1993. Welling retired after the 2006 season.
Skaggs said he and his assistant coaches Marcus Evans and Corey Tucker use that tradition as a major recruiting tool.
"It means something to wear this jersey," he said. "We believe Owens is the best kept secret in the area. People out-of-state know how strong Owens is, and that's how we sell our program."
Skaggs pointed to a win last season over Mott Community College as proof that the program remains among the elite. Mott went on to win a Division II national championship last year.
The Express was ranked No. 22 in the NJCAA Division II preseason poll. Mott, in Flint, Mich., received the No. 1 ranking.
Of the eight returning players, Springfield High School graduate Fletcher Noble scored the most points as a freshman. Noble, a sophomore guard, averaged 5.3 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game last year.
Noble earned first-team all-Northern Lakes League honors in 2006 as a senior at Springfield. He averaged 13.7 points per game for the Blue Devils.
Noble was named a co-captain in the preseason along with sophomore forward DeAngelo Jordan. Jordan, who attended Highland Park High School in Detroit, averaged 3.9 points and 2.6 rebounds last season.
While Noble and Jordan will likely start all season, several injuries in the preseason have forced Skaggs to juggle his lineup.
Donald Lucious, a sophomore guard from Milwaukee, will start early on along with sophomore center Justin Manns (Winston-Salem, N.C.) and freshman guard Joshua Robinson (Elkhart, Ind.).
Two other local products also should see playing time. Sophomore guard Nick Owens (Erie Mason) returns and freshman forward Terren Jones (Adrian Madison) also will look to contribute.
Skaggs of Erie, Mich., previously coached at Alma College for six years. He said one of his main philosophies is employing "intelligent pressure."
He said he hopes that style and his players' athletic advantages will lead to a return trip to the NJCAA national tournament. The last time Owens reached the national tournament was at the end of the 2002-03 season.
"We always hope to finish in the top two in our conference," he said. "We know it will be tough. There are no weak teams in our conference anymore. But we have a nice blend of talent, both first-year student athletes and returning veterans."
For more information on the team go to www.owens.edu.
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-304-4760.