Chances are Joey O’Dwyer is somewhere right now in a gym taking some shots.
When he’s not putting in offseason workouts as a member of the Penn State York University basketball team with trainer Josh Czerski (former Towson Catholic and Penn State York University standout himself), the local 6’4 kid from Baltimore is likely putting in some long hours on the baseline and behind the photography lens in area high school gyms and down at the Brunson League Pro-Am on Sundays. That’s where O’Dwyer has truly honed his craft over the last year as a novice sports photographer and has emerged as a talent on the rise when it comes to covering the game and players up close and personal around basketball in Baltimore.
“Joey’s a good dude. He LOVES basketball whether it’s playing, training kids himself, or just being at games,” said fellow Baltimore native and current BIG 3 guard, Donte’ Greene who has come to know O’Dwyer over the last four years.
“His photography skills — I already know he’s going to grow and do some really great things. He’s a hard worker, so once he puts his mind to something, it turns out great. He’s definitely someone to keep at eye out for.”
Basketball in Baltimore is a brotherhood like none other thanks to true love for the game and how heavily rooted it is in the community. For a young college basketball player, aspiring D1 Coach, and self-taught sports photographer like Joey O’Dwyer to be able to both capture and chronicle that experience around the Brunson League and the city in general through basketball is a rarity.
It’s also inspiring.
Joey O’Dwyer recently took time to talk about getting started as a sports photographer in Baltimore, what makes the Brunson League so special, growing as a player himself at Penn State York, and who he selected for his All-Baltimore Starting 5!
We have to kick things off with you breaking down last basketball season at Penn State York University, where you helped capture a Penn State University Athletic Conference Tournament title before falling the Semifinals. What impact did that have on you now that summer is here and you’re heading into your Senior year?
My junior season was definitely a roller coaster for our whole team. In the middle of the season we were in first place then all of a sudden lost three straight games and fell down to fourth and fifth place, and heading into playoffs shortly after that. But after those three tough games, we bounced back and made a little run before the playoffs to help our seeding out. It was a crazy ride and felt amazing to knock off two teams in the playoffs that going into the game they had so much confidence, but we have one of the best coaches in college basketball and that was a big plus to our success. It felt amazing to be able to get back to the Championship since my freshman year we lost the Conference and National championship in one year. Playing in the Championship this year was awesome and being able to win it was probably the best feeling I had after a basketball game in years. Since winning the Championship my confidence in my team going into next year is crazy! I have a lot of faith that we can come out on top again!
Flashing back to your Sophomore season where you went for 20 points (5 for 7 from 3-point) in 21 minutes off of the bench in a win over Williamson — what did that moment mean for you and how have you grown as a player since beginning your college career?
I remember that game like it was yesterday. That 100% helped me grow as a player because I was still a young gun in the program that gave me so much confidence the rest of the year. During that time and currently I am still learning a ton about myself as a basketball player and the game itself. The main thing for a shooter is to maintain a high level of confidence in yourself.
When you think back to your time playing high school basketball at Dulaney, what are some of the memories that stand out for you?
My junior season at Dulaney was my most exciting and fun high school season. I say this because Dulaney is a big time basketball school and being a "transfer", everyone talked about you. I can still remember my first game in a Dulaney jersey and my last. Playing along side with one of my best friends Isaiah Lamb was another exciting experience. One of the moments that stand out to me was when we would play against our so called "rival" Towson High School. The gym would be jammed packed an hour before the game, they wouldn't let anyone in. Just that atmosphere was a great memory even though we won by 60-something points that game, it was a fun basketball crowd.
When did you start to become interested in photography and especially sports photography? Where there certain influences that led to you getting behind the lens or picking up a camera?
Last summer at the Brunson League my guy BJ Smith asked me if I wanted to film his game for him and I could use his camera, so I said ‘yeah, I can do that’. Then once players saw me do that, they asked me to film their games too. One day I was at my brothers house and saw his camera out and asked if I could borrow it one Sunday and he said yes, so I brought it down to the Brunson League and just started taking pictures. People started asking for them and next thing you know I am a pretty well known photographer around the area. There was not really any certain influences, it was more about people started to pay me for pictures of my work and asked that I come to their games. I enjoyed that so I decided to become a serious photographer.
There's something special about basketball in Baltimore — what are some of the games you remember shooting the most? How have you grown as a photographer from that first time you shot a Brunson League game?
Basketball is special at ALL levels in Baltimore. Some of the top games I remember shooting, was the MSJ vs SFA rival game which had multiple D1 players on the court and the gym was packed and it was just great Baltimore basketball. Another game was when Rocket Watts and LaMelo Ball came into town and played against a local high school team. That was fun to watch from the baseline! And of course my favorite games to shoot at our every Sunday down at the Brunson League! I would have to say yes, I have 100% grown as a photographer from learning from other photographers and YouTube as well, but seriously — my pictures are only getting better and better.
Wooter Apparel has a long history of partnering with the Brunson League (and the Baltimore Hawks, Heart Over Hype youth teams led by Alvin Parker) for their jersey and uniform collaborations and you've been able to capture the games up close through your photography work. What makes shooting the Brunson games different than other games?
Shooting games at the Brunson League is a pleasure because being able to be on the court and to talk to the professional basketball players is an honor. Some people think that NBA guys are stuck up and all of that but the ones I met (Will Barton, the Grant Brothers, and many more) have all been good dudes and have had conversations with me about basketball in general. The Brunson League is just a different kind of basketball. You wont find it in any other semi pro summer league. These dudes will guard you full court the whole game, everyone plays both sides of the ball the entire time, that is what makes the Brunson League a special league. We have had "big time dudes" back out of coming to play because they might and will get exposed against Baltimore bump!
You have to pick an All-Time starting five from Baltimore — who are your go-to guys?
My all time starting five from Baltimore is guys I watched and know about so I can’t choose any of the old time players, but my five would be, all these guys in their prime — Malcom Delaney, Donte Greene, Carmelo Anthony, Will Barton, and Rudy Gay. If I was the Coach of this team I would run a 5 out on offense and let them go to work!
Along with juggling life as a student-athlete, getting ready for next season at school, and continuing to receive praise from your peers as "the best photographer in the city" — where do things go from here for you?
You are right! I have been called the best photographer in the city, but there really are so many great ones around. I just try my best to get the best quality images and photos for players that I can! After college I am still going to continue my photography path while I coach basketball, because that is my dream is to become a D1 head coach, but like I said I won’t stop taking pictures of basketball because it is fun ( and it helps to get free front row tickets to a lot of high level games!). Make sure to follow my instagram @joey_with_the_vision (you can also connect with Joey on Twitter) for more of my work around Baltimore and basketball.