Welcome to another exciting Dream Chasers Q&A, March is Women’s History Month and every day we see more and more amazing female athlete’s who shatter stereotypes and put us on notice that they mean business and the phrase “You can’t” isn’t in their vocabulary. Playing division one sports is NO JOKE, and it’s even harder to be a starter year one and have an impact, well this month we showcase a young lady who did just that. When I think of places that take their basketball seriously Indiana comes to mind quickly, kids are born with a basketball in hand and are working on shot form in the crib. After being a FOUR-year starter at the University of Cincinnati, she took her talents to Europe and is just getting started coming at us from Indianapolis, Indiana get to know the 5’6 point guard with a quick first step Ana Owens.
Joe Cardoso: At What age did you start playing basketball, and was it your first love?
Ana Owens: Believe it or not, I started dribbling a basketball when I was four years old. I never thought I’d play basketball my whole life because I always wanted to be a gymnast. As a little girl, I was always flipping around the house or dribbling a basketball. My first organized basketball league was in first grade, I was six years old, playing with 4th and 5th graders. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was out there with a jersey that could’ve fit my dad at the time, shorts almost touching the ground, heart virtually out of my chest. Well, the ref threw up the ball and boom! One of my teammates tipped the ball my way, and it hit me in the face. I ran off the court and quit. Ha! What a start to my long career, right? Well, the next week I was back at it and caught myself continually wanting to play again. I was always in the gym because all of my siblings played as well, so there was no escaping. Basketball being my first love is a no-brainer. I grew up in a basketball family, so that’s all I knew and all I was around. I grew to love it, and I grew to not want anything else but basketball. So yes, basketball has always been my first love!
JC: When did you start to realize that you were really good and could maybe take things to the next level?
AO: I realized I was good once I got to middle school: 6th grade to be exact. I was always pretty good growing up, but I never really thought about it because I was so young. I started playing AAU when I was in 5th grade. That is when I learned that you could get a scholarship and go to college for being a good player. You know how before a tournament game, you always have to watch those introductory NCAA videos that nobody listens to? Well, I was that lame that actually listened. Ha! I played with my age group, and I also played with an older team as well. I remember playing in a Nike tournament at Boo Williams in Virginia with the older team. They had a few scouts at the game, which I didn’t know because that was the least of my concerns. I ended up scoring multiple times, and you could tell I was young because I was so much smaller than everyone else. I just remember after the game; people came up to me asking me my age. After that weekend, I received my first few questionnaires from local colleges, and that is when I began to see that I could potentially take things to the next level!
JC: Growing up in Indiana, basketball is life. What’s it’s like being a top player in a state that’s so hoop crazy?
AO: As stated, Indiana IS the basketball state! There was always a ton of competition in Indiana, so climbing that mountain to becoming one of the top players was not easy. You have to put in a lot of work! As I developed into a top player, it was like I was always being watched. Everyone knew when and where I was playing, no matter what. Every team wants you to play with them, both in AAU and high school. For me, I played on a high school team with about 4-5 other top players. So the spotlight was not always necessarily on me; it was always on our team. I went to Lawrence North high school, which is a big-time basketball school. Everyone wanted to come to the games on both the girls and boys side. I was happy to be on a good team because it relieved the pressure off me and all I had to do was go out there, perform, and have fun. So growing up and playing in Indiana was probably the best thing that could’ve happened to me, because it taught me the correct way to play basketball as a team, how to be competitive, and how to stay committed because if you weren’t invested, you knew someone was coming for your spot.
JC: Basketball at the University of Cincinnati has a good history. What was that first year like being a starter on top of everything else?
AO: My first year… What a story… Ha!
Well, I didn’t know how my ability stacked up when I got first there. I just knew I needed to work hard in order to just get on the floor as a freshman. I knew coming to previous games and hearing stories from other college players that freshmen never got a lot of playing time. My story was different. In practice, I started playing with the starters and seemed to always be called to do demonstrations or be first in drills. I was so nervous, yet excited. I didn’t want to step on the toes of any upperclassmen or have them feel any type of way, but I had great teammates that respected me because I worked hard for my spot. I ended up starting my very first college game, which was beyond nerve-wracking until after the tip. No matter what, after the tip, I’m always fine; no more butterflies. Not only did I start the very first game, but I also started every single game the rest of my college career, and ended up averaging about 35 of the 40 minutes on the court as well. From the very beginning of my collegiate career, I had a significant role and major responsibility to the team. Being the point guard, you’re the leader on the floor. I was also the leading scorer, and let’s not forget that this was this young kid’s first time away from home. It was a lot to handle, but I had so much help and support from my coaches and teammates. With the backing of their support, it relieved so much pressure and allowed me just to play the game I loved. I couldn’t be more thankful for them during my transition.
JC: In the four years you played, what would you say was your favorite or most memorable play/moment?
AO: The most memorable moment of my college career by far was during the conference tournament my senior year. We were playing against Tulsa in the first round, and a lot was at stake because we had to win more games in order to at least make the WNIT. I had made an All-Conference team and was having a pretty good all-around year stat-wise, so a lot of eyes were on me. I was having one of the most unproductive/bad games of the season when it meant the most. It started impacting my confidence about halfway through the game, but I knew I had to be mature and snap out of it because my team needed me. We got to the end of the game, down by one, with about 30 seconds left. It’s our ball, and our coach calls a timeout, draws up a play, looks at me and my other senior teammate, and basically says, “This is it, you are our only chance, I trust you two, go get it done.” I got the ball and a screen from a teammate, while another teammate sealed the other post player out the way. I hit the game-winning layup. I don’t even remember looking at the basket, and I shot my layup so high off the glass it could’ve hit the shot clock. Ha! That was the best feeling ever, hitting the game-winning layup to advance us to the next round after having the worst game of my career. I was so happy. I remember hugging my coach and crying because it was a remarkable feeling. Having a coach and teammates still, believe and trust in you after everything says a lot about them and their character.
JC: We all “think” we know how things are. What is one thing about college athletics people would be surprised about?
AO: I think one thing even I downplayed as a college athlete was how busy and overwhelming the lifestyle can be. You have to be able to perform on the court, in the classroom, and be a role model off the court. You can’t be a regular student because you aren’t a regular student. You are always being watched. It’s so tempting to slack off at times because it can be draining. Some nights, you come back from a game at 5:00 in the morning and have to make it to an 8 a.m. class, or be at your internship by 7:00 a.m., while also having an important game in two days that you have to focus on as well. I was in a sorority, so there would be times that they would be out hanging out and I would have a game the next day so I would have to skip the chance to chill with my sisters. There are a lot of things you have to sacrifice as an athlete because your time is consumed by the weight room, class, film, practice, games, community service, etc. I can definitely say time management is huge for an athlete!
JC: Who are some of the people on and off the court that inspire you?
AO: Although he’s retired, a person who inspired me on the court is Hall of Famer Allen Iverson. He is by far my favorite player, being a little guy and still getting things done. I loved his passion for the game and confidence, no matter who his opponent was. He gave me an inner confidence that size doesn’t matter as much as your heart! Off the court, I would say my parents. They are my everything. They both work so hard and are so dedicated to giving their all to our family. I’ve never met two people that work harder than they do. I’m sure that raising four children at younger ages was not easy, but they always made it seem like it was. They always supported us in anything we wanted to pursue, while also teaching us the right way to do this thing called life. I know my parents aren’t perfect, but in my eyes they are. I love them to death, and I wouldn’t be where I’m at today if it weren’t for them.
JC: The hot debate is equal pay for female athletes with the USA women’s soccer team and WNBA leading the charge. What are your thoughts on the issue?
AO: I think it’s great! It’s sad that female athletes get paid nowhere near as much as men do when we worked hard to get to the same level as professionals. People say it’s because we don’t dunk, it’s boring, the fan base is the reason, etc. That is no excuse, though. It’s about the sponsors and their support of how hard we work. Even overseas, it’s sad a second league men’s team can get treated better than a first league women’s team in the same city. As much as women go through to get to the next level, level pay should be no question. We have women who have been in the league for years and still aren’t getting paid what they deserve. I definitely support the movement and hope for changes soon!
JC: Getting drafted by a professional team in Germany is awesome!! How was the experience, and how did you find out you got drafted?
AO: The experience was AMAZING! It was cool to see how different the states are from Europe. One thing I can say is Americans are definitely spoiled. Ha! It’s the little things, like having to air dry your clothes, paying for water when you go out to eat, bagging your groceries, public transportation, etc. I had a really good time. I was able to see some nice historical places, had terrific teammates, and also competing against some good competition for my JOB. That puts it into perspective. My experience getting overseas was a little different. I had to go to a combine to get looked at by an agent, sign with an agent, then put everything in his hands. It was his job to find me a job, so he ended up finding me a few deals/offers. I decided going to Germany was the best fit for me career-wise, and I ended up signing a one-season contract with that team. It was an amazing feeling signing that contract because I had worked so hard to get to that point in my life and the hard work was literally paying dividends.
JC: Without giving anything away, what’s next for you in 2019? Any endorsements in the works, etc.
AO: Let’s just say some things are in the works. Ha! That’s all I can give you guys at this time 🙂
JC: When you aren’t playing what can we expect to find you doing?
AO: You can find me either shopping or hanging out with my nieces and nephews. I am a big family person, so being with them is all I need!
JC: Every true baller is a sneakerhead, what are some of your favorites?
AO: Concord 11’s for sure!
JC: If someone asked…..who is Ana Owens?
AO: Ana Owens is a hard-working, dedicated, relentless individual who cares about her image and how she represents herself. I am serious about my career and how I go about things, but I am also a down to earth type of person. I am a very energetic person that loves to have fun and make people laugh. When you are around me, you will for sure be entertained. Ha! I am also big on family, as we are all close. I do everything not only for myself but mainly for them. I want to make them proud, and continue to be that role model for my nieces and nephews so they can follow in my footsteps. I am deep into my faith and a follower of Christ. When I’m not with my family or playing basketball, I’m most likely out shopping. I am girly off the court and blame that on my line sisters. Ha! I am a part of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc, where I met sisters that I will have for life. I can say I am truly blessed with everything I have going on in my life and I couldn’t be more grateful!
To sum it all up, Ana Owens is a hardworking, humble, loving, well-rounded individual with an edge to her about anything she is trying to accomplish. Remember the name and keep an eye out for what’s next follow her on:
A big THANK YOU to Ana for fitting us in her busy schedule! Never settling, not letting others affect what you do and who you are that is a DREAM CHASER.