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Josh Owens' impending return is great news for Stanford

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The mysterious undisclosed medical condition that sidelined Stanford forward Josh Owens all of this past season apparently will not end his college basketball career as some initially feared.

Stanford announced Monday that Owens has been cleared to play next season, great news for the 6-foot-8 redshirt junior-to-be and for a Cardinal program in dire need of depth and athleticism in the frontcourt. Owens underwent a series of medical exams and consulted with multiple specialists around the country before the school felt it was safe to reinstate him.

Until Stanford announced that Owens would be unable to play last season, it seemed like it might be a breakout year for the promising junior forward. Owens had averaged 6.9 points and 3.6 rebounds as a sophomore after receiving limited minutes behind the Lopez twins as a freshman, but last season it would have been his turn to emerge as the interior complement to Landry Fields and Jeremy Green on the perimeter.

Instead with Owens on the bench, incoming freshman Andy Brown out with a knee injury and sophomore Will Paul academically ineligible, Stanford's frontcourt may have been as talent-starved as any in the nation. Six-foot-9 walk-on Jack Trotter and Santa Clara transfer Andrew Zimmerman started and walk-on Elliott Bullock logged heavy minutes off the bench, though the Fields often slid down to power forward during key stages of games.

Reinforcements are finally on the way next season thanks to the reinstatement of Owens, the return of Brown and the arrival of the Pac-10's best recruiting class.

Owens will provide athleticism and inside-outside scoring once he shakes off the inevitable rust. Five-star incoming freshman Dwight Powell figures to contribute immediately as a rebounder and shot-blocker. Brown had been an all-state forward at Southern California power Mater Dei before suffering two torn ACLs in 10 months. And Trotter proved to be an energetic, hard-working defender last season.

A Stanford team universally picked to finish last in the Pac-10 this past season greatly overachieved, winning seven conference games and upsetting second-place Arizona State to reach the conference tournament semifinals.

This year, even with the graduation of Fields, there's enough talent on the roster that an upper-division finish might not be out of reach.

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