By Craig Beilfuss
The former Western Michigan Christian Warrior played 4 years of varsity basketball and finished his high school career with 1,052 points.
Calvin, a member of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA), has been ranked in the top 25 in Division 3 hoops since Nov. 27. In the initial poll, Calvin was No. 17.
The Knights are under the direction of Coach Bill Sall, who has been roaming the Calvin sidelines for the past 4 seasons and he is elated to have Varnado in a Knights’ uniform and pleased with his performance thus far.
“When we were recruiting him, we obviously could see that he was a super skilled ballplayer and a good defender,” Sall said. “He’s really come into his own here at Calvin on the defensive end.
“As a freshman, he is super vocal on the court and he brings a lot of energy into both games and practices,” Sall said. “His window is large in what he can become as a player. For him, I can see that he really relishes the opportunity to get out there and play.”
Varando has had to adjust to his new role with the Knights. While at Western Michigan Christian, he was the go-to guy on the court as the team’s leading scorer and rebounder.
“The biggest adjustment is the pace of the game, which it is played at and the physicality,” said Varnado. “Everyone is faster and bigger. The college game is more physical than at the high school level. It’s important for me to give all my energy on both ends of the floor, but it really all starts defensively for me.”
Varnado has started three games this season and is averaging 21 minutes per game. He averages 6.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. His career high is 11 points scored in games against Wisconsin-Stout, Hiram and Augsburg.
“A lot of my time on the floor is because I can guard any place on the floor,” Varnado said. “Everything that I do starts on the defensive end and not offense. I love my role. Coach (Sall) needs me to come off the bench, knock down some shots, bring energy night in and night out and I enjoy that.”
“For any freshman coming in they recognize that the talent level is way up from high school level to the college level,” Sall said. “We have some younger players that have adjusted well especially from the defensive end and Owen has done that.
“Owen is a very intregal part of what we are building here for Calvin basketball,” Sall said. “He is meeting our expectations and we anticipate that he’ll improve every year and excel.”
Varnado loves the experience of playing for the nationally-ranked Knight and for Sall.
“Obviously, I have never experienced playing for a nationally ranked team,” said Varnado, whose first cousin is Boston Celtics guard/forward Jaylen Brown. “It means that every night, whoever we play, will bring their best game.
“Coach Sall is amazing,” he said. “He loves basketball and is passionate about the game. He’s a truthful and honest coach and wants to see me succeed both on and off the court.”
Varnado is majoring in Economics at Calvin.