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The Daily Tar Heel

`Unselfish' Owens Learns to Embrace Bench Role

Doherty apologized to Owens.

Owens had just spent 34 of the game's 40 minutes on the bench. And he didn't attempt a single shot in the limited time he was on the floor.

But for a player who has had to deal with his share of adversity, Owens didn't respond to Doherty by pouting or sulking.

"He said 'Coach, I understand. As long as you talk to me, I understand,'" Doherty said. "What coach wouldn't be excited about dealing those type of people? It was very unselfish."

Unselfish. A word few people reserved for Owens earlier in his career but one that now has become as much of a trademark as his deadly jump shot.

Owens came to North Carolina with high expectations, and he fueled them -- uncharacteristically -- by saying before the start of last season that he should start at shooting guard because he had served his time waiting in the wings.

Owens started the first 12 games -- albeit at small forward -- and averaged 14.1 points during that stretch. But when power forward Kris Lang returned from injury on Jan. 2 against Howard, UNC coach Bill Guthridge found a seat on the bench for Owens to occupy.

Owens reached double figures in two of the final 24 games and went scoreless in seven of UNC's final 10 contests.

Doherty's arrival in Chapel Hill this summer translated into a fresh start for Owens, who has grown comfortable with his new coach and a redefined role.

"He can talk to me on another level, more on my level," Owens said. "He's not that old of a guy. I think he's a great guy."

Doherty's time with Owens is running out, though. The two embraced on Sunday before what was Owens' first start of the season and his last game at the Smith Center.

Owens scored eight points in 23 minutes against Duke on Sunday and is averaging 5.7 points a game this season.

With the Tar Heels set to begin play at the ACC Tournament on Friday, Owens has another chance to make a postseason impact before he hangs up his UNC uniform for good.

He scored 23 points in the semifinals against Maryland and 22 in the finals against Duke in 1999 to earn first-team all-tournament honors.

"He's very capable," fellow senior Michael Brooker said. "We're going to need production off the bench, especially with three games in three days -- hopefully it will be three games if we play well.

"I think he'll be a big part of that coming off the bench."

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