Carlton (silk) Owens has a couple of physical peculiarities. Of the two, the big gap in his front teeth is more noticeable than the dime-sized spot on the back of his upper arm, left by a bullet now lodged in his forearm. Apparently neither the loss of the tooth nor the addition of the slug has affected Silk's performance on the basketball court. "Nothing bothers me," says the Rhode Island senior.
He didn't seem bothered last season, when Rhode Island was picked to finish last in the Atlantic 10; the Rams' point guard just went out and averaged 18.7 points a game to lead the team to 20 wins, third place and an NIT berth. "There's not a thing he can't do as a point guard," says coach Tom Penders. "We couldn't win without Carlton."
Last January, Owens was in the wrong place at the wrong time when Temple center Ramon Rivas stuck out his elbow and knocked out one of Silk's teeth. When Owens was in high school, his own elbow was in the wrong place at the wrong time. After a party in his Coney Island neighborhood, a shooting erupted. As Silk ran for cover, a bullet pierced his left arm. Doctors decided not to remove it because surgery might have cost Owens the use of the arm.
The wound did cost him his junior year of high school basketball and the attention of college recruiters. A couple of Big East schools showed interest after his senior year, but Silk decided to go where he could play right away. He ended up on the bucolic campus in Kingston, R.I. "It's a slower pace," Owens says.
The slow pace extended to the basketball team until Penders arrived last season and installed a fast-break offense. Owens—and the Rams—flourished. Off the court Silk is majoring in human development and, after trying pro ball, wants to become a counselor for adolescents. Sounds like a good career choice. If kids won't listen to a former basketball star who had a tooth knocked out and can point to a bullet in his arm, whom will they listen to?