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The Difference a Year Makes – A Look at the NAZ Suns Final Four Players

By Jacob Withee | April 6, 2020

April 6, 2019 – the sports world was abuzz. The Brooklyn Nets eeked out a win at the Milwaukee Bucks, who owned the NBA’s best record. All 30 MLB teams were on the diamond, with three one-run outcomes in the 15 games. And of course, the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four was as thrilling as ever, with the semifinal games decided by a combined 11 points.

April 6, 2020 – the sports world has come to halt. Due to COVID-19, each professional sports league that was in the middle of its season has been suspended. On this Monday, there was supposed to be an NBA game, 13 MLB games, the NBA G League postseason would be in full swing, and tonight, there would be a new champion crowned after the NCAA Tournament title game.

A lot has changed in a year. Four players who suited up for the Northern Arizona Suns at some point this season were playing in front of millions in the Final Four on this day last year.

Virginia’s Ty Jerome, who played three games on assignment for NAZ from the Phoenix Suns, battled against Auburn’s Jared Harper, now a Two-Way guard between Phoenix and NAZ. Texas Tech big men Tariq Owens and Norense Odiase, both integral players for NAZ this year, knocked off Michigan State in the semifinal round last year.

A full year removed, how have each fared in their games?

Jerome scored 16.7 PPG in his three games with NAZ after notching 13.6 PPG with Virginia in 2018-19. Owens has averaged 10.4 points on 59.7 percent shooting and 6.9 rebounds in 40 games (all starts) for the NAZ Suns. At Texas Tech last year, he averaged 8.7 points (61.1 percent shooting) and 5.8 rebounds in 38 games. Harper has been the Suns’ leading scorer all season with 20.8 PPG, adding 5.7 APG. Last year, he had 15.3 PPG and 5.8 APG. Odiase’s rebounding has been solid throughout 2019-20, as he’s secured 7.1 RPG to go with 5.5 PPG. In his final year at Texas Tech, he had 5.4 RPG and 4.2 PPG.

Some other fun stats:

  • There are nine players total from last year’s Final Four squads who appeared in an NBA G League game this season. The Suns had four of those nine! No other team suited more than one.
  • If his averages hold, Harper will finish with the highest PPG mark (20.8) in a single-season in team history (Elijah Millsap had 19.8 PPG in 2016-17). He’ll have the third highest APG mark (5.7) in a single-season (behind Josh Gray at 6.6 APG in 2017-18 and Jawun Evans at 5.8 APG in 2018-19).
  • Owens has a team-high eight double-doubles on the season. Over the last three seasons, only Aaron Epps (11) has had more in a single-year for NAZ.
  • Odiase has 11 double-digit rebounding games this year, finding himself in the top 30 in the league in total such games. He’s averaging a team-high 7.1 RPG.
  • Harper has scored 21 20+ point games this season, top 10 in such games in the league.
  • Among players with 100 shots this year, Owens has the 22nd best shooting percentage in the league at .597.
  • Odiase had 16 rebounds in a game this season, one short of a team-record for most boards in a game.

The three NAZ Suns have each said their games have improved throughout this NBA G League season, most recently Harper making that claim to a fan’s question on Twitter on Sunday:

Until we get to see them back on the court, take a look back at some top moments in last year’s Final Four, games in which each guy played 20+ minutes: