Owen Freeman was seven years old when he accomplished something the rest of his classmates could only dream of.
It was probably an indicator that he might also have the tools to succeed in basketball.
“In second grade, I was taller than my teacher,” Freeman said. “I was just huge compared to everyone else, I mean, head and shoulders above my classmates.”
This week’s Illinois pacesetter has continued to grow and now sits at 6-foot-11.
The Moline power forward is averaging 20 points per game in Moline’s 6-1 start to the season. Freeman also led the charge in three Western Big 6 Conference wins, all of which ended with a running clock, by shooting 29 of 32 (91%) from the floor.
The 2021 AP All-State member was simply unstoppable.
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“It was really impressive,” said Moline coach Sean Taylor. “He’s done it in more than one game. He has really good skills. He’s got great feeling off the basket, but maybe more importantly, he’s got great hands. He catches the ball and when he’s in a brace he passes so unselfishly. I think that just encourages his teammates to throw it at him more often.”
Freeman has been drawing passes from his teammates for years, so this is nothing new. He was big when he was young, but he was also dominant on the pitch.
The senior Maroon has played significant varsity minutes since his college days at Bradley-Bourbonnais, but before that he’d been a matchup nightmare for much longer.
“I started playing basketball when I was three years old, just with a mini hoop,” Freeman said. “I’ve found that I’m pretty decent. When I was in seventh grade, I played with the eighth graders and I put on about 20 (points) a game.
“That’s when I was like, ‘Hey, this could be a future for me.'”
And so far, Freeman said it’s been everything he dreamed of. He signed on to the University of Iowa in October 2021 after also receiving offers from schools including Illinois, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue, Ohio State, Butler, Wake Forest and Wisconsin.
Freeman and his family switched to Moline during his senior season to be closer to Iowa City, not only so his parents could make the trip to watch him play with the Hawkeyes, but also to see his brother Braden, who is a 6-6 is a sophomore at Moline.
It also helped that Freeman is close to Brock Harding, who has also signed to play with the Hawkeyes next season. The couple had played together in AAU for years, but now the connection has really come together as high school teammates at Wharton Field House.
“Brock and I have been able to work together since jumping into AAU,” Freeman said. “He threw lobs at me, lobs on the first day of practice. We clicked straight away.
“We’ve been able to give little glimpses of our skill here and there, but I don’t feel like we’ve reached our upper limit.”
Their playing style is also the same.
Moline blitzes his opponents and has averaged 82 points over the six fights with Freeman on the ground. He had 23 points and 14 rebounds in a win over Rock Island. He had 23 points against Galesburg and shot 11 for 11 from the floor.
“[Freeman]runs like a deer,” Taylor said. “He helps us run even more by being such a great rebounder that allows us to lead our style a little easier. But then he also runs the court incredibly well.”
Freeman had a history with Harding, but Freeman has emerged as one of the leaders of a talented Moline team despite being introduced less than six months ago. Coach Taylor said it speaks a lot to his character.
“He’s obviously a great player, but he’s just a great person,” Taylor said. “He’s doing so well at school and in the community. He fits in so easily. Also, he is selfless on the pitch. It’s not about individual things, it’s about the team. That’s a person that’s easy to like when you play basketball with them.”
Most people know Freeman from his on-court accomplishments, but he has many interests off the hardwood as well.
While in Iowa, he wants to study veterinary medicine because of his love for animals. He is also very vocal about his Christian faith in post-game interviews.
But many people may not know that he enjoys drawing.
“I’ve drawn animals, celebrities, and basketball players,” Freeman said. “My favorite drawing I’ve ever had is of Dennis Rodman where he jumps straight up.”
No matter what future career Freeman dives into, he still feels basketball is his best bet. And he thinks he’s only getting better.
“In my sophomore year, my game really started to take off,” Freeman said. “Since then I’ve just been working on my craft and I’ve gotten better.
“I feel like this year has probably been the best I’ve ever had. But I still have a lot of progress to make.”
Freeman’s ability has propelled Moline to #2 in Class 4A in the Associated Press’s latest state rankings, cementing the high expectations many across the state have for the Maroons.
It’s gossip that has reached the ears of those at Moline’s.
“It puts pressure on us, but as soon as we step onto the pitch we’re locked together and not affected by outside noise,” Freeman said. “It’s all about business and making sure we get it done at that point.
“We have high expectations of ourselves. We feel like we’re number one in the state and we want to win a state championship in Champaign. That’s our goal. We try to stick to that every day.”
But however his high school basketball career ends, those around him are just as excited about what lies ahead. And many believe it could be something special.
“His future is unlimited,” Taylor said. “He keeps getting stronger and more skilled. There aren’t many 6-11 guys who run like him or are as skilled as him. He’s not going to set any limits for himself and I just think he can go a long way with his love of the game and work ethic. He’s going to Iowa to play, not just join the team. He will be a significant player.
“I’m excited to see how this season obviously develops, but I’m also excited to keep watching him to see what he achieves going forward.”