GLYNDON, Minn. — Owen Leach’s mom tricked him into attending his first basketball practice by telling him they were going to get ice cream. She wanted her son to play, but he wasn't having it.
Leach was around 7 years old the first time he picked up a basketball. It took a few years for him to grow an interest. Now, it’s his life.
His family’s farm in Glyndon has a basketball hoop, and Leach, a junior-to-be at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, shoots at least six days a week, in addition to lifting sessions. The commitment to his craft has served him well.
Leach, a 6-foot-6 small forward and shooting guard, has caught the attention of college programs. June 15 marked the first day college coaches were allowed to directly contact recruits from the class of 2023, and Leach heard from a handful of mid-major and high-major programs, as well as a couple NCAA Division II schools.
In the past two weeks, Leach has been contacted by the University of Florida, University of Minnesota, West Virginia, North Dakota State, Appalachian State and Creighton, as well as Minnesota State Moorhead, Minnesota Duluth and Northern State at the Division II level.
“It’s more introductory stuff still, getting to know each other and them saying ‘We're interested in you’ and just trying to learn more about me,” Leach said.
Leach averaged a double-double with 22.7 points and 11.2 rebounds per game during his sophomore season for the Rebels. He also added 2.5 assists on average and was named the Heart O’ Lakes Conference MVP.
Leach is a homebody, but he’s open to leaving the state and looking at schools that are farther away.
“I know he’s only going into his junior year, but whatever college or program he decides to go to, they’re not only going to get a good basketball player, but a special person,” D-G-F head boys basketball coach Mike Clark said.
Clark knew Leach was going to be something special all the way back to Leach's elementary days. Leach always stood above the rest, but not just because of his height.
“Owen has always worked on his ball handling, and he was more of an all-around player than just the stereotypical tall player on a youth team,” Clark said. “Way back then you kind of knew that he aspired for more than just being stereotyped as a post-type player.”
Leach, who also plays football for the Rebels, has been on varsity since he was an eighth-grader. He was a freshman when he realized playing at a higher level could be an option for him.
“I had a dunk against Hawley and I sat and thought to myself, I don’t think that many freshmen dunk in games,” Leach said.
Leach has been making some noise on the AAU circuit this summer for the Twin Cities-based Grassroots Sizzle. He has churned out one solid performance after another for former Minnesota Gophers point guard Arriel McDonald’s 16U team in his first summer with the high-profile club.
“The best thing about Owen is he’s never content with what he is now,” Clark said. “He always strives to become better. He’s so down to earth and he just keeps working hard.”
Jalen Suggs and Chet Holmgren, the 2020 and 2021 Minnesota Mr. Basketball award winners, both played the Under Armour circuit with Grassroots Sizzle. Suggs recently wrapped a standout freshman season at Gonzaga, where Holmgren is an incoming freshman.
“It’s gone really well,” said Leach, who crossed the 1,000-point threshold as a sophomore. “We’ve been playing really good teams. It’s been fun to get out of D-G-F and play against some bigger kids.”
Clark admitted he was a little skeptical of Leach joining the Twin Cities-based program. He didn’t want Leach, who previously played with the St.Cloud-based Minnesota Comets, to be “just a number” there.
“Well, guess what, he’s not just a number there,” Clark said. “He’s been averaging 20-25 points a game every tournament they go to, and these are national tournaments all around the country.”
Leach tallied 24 points, four rebounds and four assists playing up at the 17U level at a RecruitLook Hoops Crossover Culture Circuit in May in Minneapolis.
“It’s been crazy compared to local tournaments,” Leach said. “It’s pretty cool to gauge yourself against everyone else, and it’s been really fun just to see the level of competition that’s out there.”
Leach is primed for another big season for the Rebels. Clark thinks the future is bright for the 6-foot-6 standout.
“Obviously his game is gonna have to keep evolving because the more notoriety he gets, defenses are going to focus on him more,” Clark said. “His primary goal is to be the best he can be.”