May 14, 2004
GAINESVILLE, Fla. –
While their paths to Florida State University were different, Joe Bassett and Jarrod Owen have had similar journeys since coming to Tallahassee. After four years on the court the two seniors find themselves potentially just one match away from ending their collegiate careers.
The duo will try to prolong the last chapter of their Seminole playing days when No. 47 Florida State takes on 20th-ranked Arizona on Saturday (May 15) during the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Seminoles and Wildcats take the court at Florida’s Ring Tennis Complex at 1 p.m. The winner will face the winner of Florida-Central Florida match.
Both Bassett (Monticello, Fla.) and Owen (Vero Beach, Fla.) have seen the highs and lows since coming to Florida State. The team hit a low point during the 2001 season – Bassett’s sophomore year and the initial season for Owen – when FSU posted a 10-14 mark, the Seminoles first losing season since 1986. The first two years of Owen’s career the team did not finish higher than fifth in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Since then Florida State has been on the rise as is evident with its back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament. Last season was the Seminoles’ first trip to the national tournament since the 1998 campaign. Because of injuries Bassett and Owen had been spectators more than they had been participants for a good portion of the revitalization of the Florida State program.
“The talent level has gotten a lot better on the team,” Bassett said. “When we played Florida my freshman year we got blasted 7-0 and they were fourth or fifth in the country. Now they are ranked the same, but now we know we have a chance to win.”
Between the spring of 2001 and the fall of 2003, Bassett had only taken the court once for the Garnet and Gold. Prior to the start of the dual match season during his sophomore year, Bassett suffered a knee injury in an exhibition match that kept him out for remainder of the 2001. That same injury sidelined him for the entire 2001-02 season and he was only able to play one match the following year.
Even in his last season with the Seminoles has been marked by injuries. While playing in 20 doubles matches and six singles bouts he has been battling an ankle injury. Ironically enough an injury to Owen during the first part of the dual match season gave Bassett the chance to get back into the line-up during doubles play. Teamed up with junior Chip Webb (Chattanooga, Tenn.), Bassett has earned five victories at number three doubles, including three during conference competition.
“In a way I feel that we’re a little bit responsible for the success they’re going to have in years to come,” Bassett said. “Since we’ve been here I think we’ve helped the coaches a lot with recruiting and that’s something that wasn’t done by the upperclassmen when I first got here. Even though we’re not going to be here next year it’s going to be basically the same guys minus Jarrod and I so we’ll still feel like it’s our team.”
After the first two seasons of his career it looked like Owen would be a major part of the Seminoles rebuilding. His first campaign saw him post 16 victories with 12 more coming in 2001-02, including a 9-6 dual match record. He played just as well during doubles play, notching 13 and 12 wins during his first two campaigns.
But just like Bassett, Owen would get bitten by the injury bug. Before he got to Florida State he had shoulder surgery, but that didn’t affect him like his second trip under the knife. In the fall of his junior season (2002-03) Owen sustained a back injury that has plagued him the last two seasons.
“The back surgery came out of nowhere and fortunately my shoulder recovered, but my back never did,” Owen said. “Joe and I have been in the same boat battling injuries. I didn’t think I would be able to come back and play this year. Realistically I thought I was done so I’m just glad to have the chance to play this weekend.”
Back problems kept him out entirely last season and have reoccurred throughout this year. Owen played the first six matches of the year before the bad back forced him out. He returned just in time for the ACC Championships and will be in the line-up for the NCAA Tournament.
“One of the reasons why the program is getting better is because the bond between the players is very tight,” Owen added. “There’s almost always one or two guys that cause problems and it was like that when I first got here. There were players that didn’t like the coaches or players and they were always causing controversy. Now everyone gets along so well that we don’t have those distraction and we can focus on the task at hand.”
Regardless of how their careers end, Bassett and Owen have had a profound impact on this year’s squad and their presence will be felt for many years to come.