Freddie Owens knew where he wanted to go, but he had no idea how to get there.
This was nearly two decades ago and Owens was a teenager growing up in Milwaukee. His dream was to become a college athlete, and Owens had a chance if he got some help.
Fortunately, he had plenty of support from a cast that included his father and stepmother along with his high school and AAU coaches. Owens ended up earning a scholarship with the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball program and played four years for the Badgers, including two as a starter.
“I had a strong base of people around me,” Owens said. “It was a combination of a lot of different people who had a small influence or a big influence to help steer me in the right direction and help me take advantage of opportunities.”
But Owens realizes he was lucky in that regard. As he surveys the landscape in his hometown these days, Owens sees too many examples of athletes with Division I potential never reaching that level for various reasons.
Ideally, Owens would work directly with student-athletes to help steer them in the right direction. But there’s a catch: He’s an assistant coach at Holy Cross and NCAA rules prevent him from working directly with potential recruits.
So Owens, 35, is trying to better educate the people who work directly with the players. He’s started the Milwaukee Coaches Association which, within the first three months, has attracted more than 300 members on the group’s Facebook page.
Owens isn’t stopping there. He’s organized a one-day clinic — more information at mcaclinic.squarespace.com — that will be held on June 3 at Thrive3 in Milwaukee.
The headliner of the event is Craig Robinson, the vice president of player and organizational development for the Milwaukee Bucks.
There will be Xs and Os sessions with UW-Milwaukee women’s coach Kyle Rechlicz and four other college coaches with Milwaukee ties: Owens, Sharif Chambliss (Wright State), Latrell Fleming (IUPUI) and Jimmie Foster (Bradley).
There also will be sessions on individual skill training development, NCAA eligibility and compliance and the importance of being a healthier coach.
“There’s a little bit of everything,” Owens said.
One of the points Owens wants to drive home, whether through the Facebook community or during the clinic, is the importance of working together.
“I’m a product of Milwaukee and I know what it’s like coming out of the inner city and you’re fighting and clawing for everything,” Owens said.
“The way the landscape of basketball is right now in the inner city, there’s a huge divide unfortunately. You’ve got a lot of the high school and AAU guys that are bumping heads with each other over these players and at the end of the day it’s hurting the student-athlete.”
Owens earned a scholarship and went on to have a solid career with the Badgers because he had a network around him to help him both athletically and academically. He knows the importance of a strong supporting cast.
“I’m just trying to fill a void and help these men and women become better coaches,” Owens said, “so that in return we can help student-athletes get opportunities.”