Temple guards freshman Nate Pierre-Louis and redshirt senior Josh Brown celebrate after the Owls upset No. 16 Wichita State on February 1st.
“These freshmen, they bring the energy,” John Thompson III said. It was ten minutes into the second half when Thompson, the broadcaster for Temple’s game against Wichita State, stated these words. Freshman DeVondre Perry had just stole the ball, subsequently leading to a layup by junior Shizz Alston to cut the Wichita State lead to three.
It was plays like that, that won Temple the game Thursday night against Wichita State. It has stemmed from the freshmen, who have brought, just as Thompson stated, energy every single night. That’s what makes this group so special.
For much of the year, head coach Fran Dunphy and the Temple staff shied away from playing the freshmen, DeVondre Perry, J.P. Moorman, Nate Pierre-Louis, and Justyn Hamilton. Before a December 28th game where Nate Pierre-Louis logged 22 minutes, there had not been a game where the four had combined for 30 or more minutes. But on Thursday they combined for 57 minutes, a clear indicator of the trend that Fran Dunphy is now going with -- youth. And the reason is clear -- they play with heart and desire.
For much of the year, the Owls have struggled when they have fallen behind in games. Big leads against Temple have easily mustered into bigger leads as they have lacked a solidifying force to help them get through those tough times. But the freshmen have changed that. While they’re still getting comfortable on the court and learning on the move, their effect on the game is invaluable.
Despite their recent success, three of the four freshmen began the year sitting the bench. Perry was the only one who did not.
The Baltimore native has played in all but one game, not always filling up the stat sheet, but affecting the game in other ways. Offensively, he has taken care of the ball, notching the lowest amount of turnovers among players who have appeared in 20 or more games. By far his most impressive attribute has been his versatility. Perry provides Dunphy with the option to go to a small lineup with him at the ‘4’. He can bang with most ‘4’ men in the country while he is also able to get rebounds and push the ball up the floor. At the ‘3’, Perry is a mismatch offensively and on the defensive end he has enough quickness to consistently stay in front of his man, Even more, Perry has shown confidence in shooting the three (1.8 attempts per game), and while he hasn’t shot well, the green light Dunphy has given him provides hope that he can improve. Moorman, just like Perry, has the same do-it-all type versatility.
The big-bodied freshman from North Carolina isn’t afraid to go down low, while also possessing guard skills on the perimeter. Moorman wears number 4 a year after the graduation of Daniel Dingle and it’s hard not to see remnants of Dingle’s game in Moorman. Similar to Dingle, he can provide instant ability to play the ‘3’ or ‘4’ in any given situation. Moorman has also attacked the boards well, coming up with multiple big time plays for Temple when they have needed them most. Moorman leads the team in offensive rebound percentage (10.6) and defensive box plus-minus (4.8), two stats that are directly related to energy and hustle. Not much further than him on the defensive box plus-minus is Perry with a percentage of 3.1, third on the team of regular minute receivers.
And that’s a large reason why Perry and Moorman were such quick insertions at the beginning of the year. While Perry has played substantial minutes in almost every game, Moorman has been a situational player until recently. At the beginning of the year, Moorman would play a few minutes at the end of the first half if someone was in foul trouble or needed a blow. But as the year has progressed, he has seen his minutes and production steadily increase.
Over the last six games, where the Owls have turned their season around, going 5-1, Moorman has averaged 15.8 minutes per game, 3.8 points, 5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.1 steals. Those numbers are significantly more than his season averages of 9.1 minutes per game, 2.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, .6 assists, and .7 steals. Whether it was his 3 steals against UConn or his offensive rebound and assists against Tulsa that led to a Temple game-winning layup, Moorman’s performances have also reflected his willingness to throw his body around.
Nate Pierre-Louis has done the same.
Pierre-Louis, unlike Perry and Moorman, saw zero meaningful minutes during most of Temple’s non-conference schedule. It took until a Georgia game, where, late in a blowout, Pierre-Louis took advantage of the 6 minutes he received. He stuck his man full court and hounded him. Offensively, he was aggressive, attacking the basket with a ferocity unlike any other Temple player. After finishing with 4 points and 3 rebounds on 2-4 shooting, it was clear that was not the last we would see Pierre-Louis.
The next game, Pierre-Louis’ name was called early on, compiling 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals in a rough loss to Tulane. Again, Pierre-Louis was the team’s mere bright spot. He hasn’t looked back.
Over the past 12 games (since the December 28 Tulane contest), the New Jersey native has averaged 10.4 points per game and provided an instant scoring threat off the bench, landing him first on the team with an offensive box-plus of 4.0. It isn’t just that Pierre-Louis is scoring. It’s that his attacking mentality, on both ends, is contagious. Over the 12 game stretch, he has not just scored, but he has attacked the boards and challenged the defense, averaging an astounding 4.1 rebounds per game and 1.4 steals. He has done all this while staying under control, averaging the lowest turnover percentage on the team with 7.6 percent. It’s not often you see a player of his energy level avoid turning the ball over, but Pierre-Louis has proved he is ready to play and contribute right now.
The last of the Temple freshman is Justyn Hamilton, who has played sparingly. He totaled his largest total of minutes against highly ranked Cincinnati, where coach Dunphy surprisingly turned to him late in the first half. With the Owls down by more than 10, Dunphy looked to shake things up. Hamilton missed a jumper and would return late in the game, but by that point, it was a blowout and he has not seen meaningful minutes since.
Hamilton, who has a 7-foot wingspan and took part in the 2016 USA U17 World Championships training camp, is versatile, just like the other freshmen. He can face up and defend, which is especially intriguing when considering his size and length. While Hamilton is not playing much now, his role will be more important in the future, as Obi Enechionyia graduates this year and Ernest Aflakpui leaves next year.
Overall, however, these freshmen have given the Owls new life. They have not only helped to rejuvenate the Temple season, but they have provided Dunphy with a lively bench and players to turn to when things start to go south. They consistently make big plays, score, spark energy, and present versatility, aspects that give Temple bench depth that they haven’t had in a while. Most importantly, the freshmen have meshed with the team and Dunphy’s system, playing hard on defense and avoiding turning the ball over. That’s what Dunphy wants and that’s what these young men have given, night in and night out. And that is all a result of their never-ending, limitless energy that continues to pressure offenses, defenses, and coaching staffs alike.
Temple guard Shizz Alston Jr. attempts a shot against Wisconsin.
(Joseph V. Labolito/Temple University)
Two years ago, Temple wedged their way into the NCAA Tournament, drawing a tough Iowa team. The Owls were led by Quenton DeCosey, their clear number one scoring option, who had put up nearly 16 points per game during the regular season. Coming in as a 10 seed, Temple fell behind early, but roared back, cutting Iowa’s lead to three with less than a minute remaining. The game was on the line and everyone knew that the ball was going to DeCosey. So, with seconds left in regulation against Iowa, and Temple still down three, the Owls turned to DeCosey, who was fouled on a three-pointer. He knocked down all three foul shots. Bang. Bang. Bang. The senior sent the game to overtime.
Five years ago, Temple once again found their way into the NCAA Tournament. This time they would make it past the first round, facing number one seeded Indiana in the Round of 32. The Owls would lead for much of the game, battling Victor Oladipo and Indiana to the final buzzer. Temple wasn’t even supposed to have a shot against the top seeded Hoosiers, but the Owls were led by a clear cut fearless number one scoring option: Khalif Wyatt. Wyatt, even more than DeCosey, had carried his team, averaging 20 points per game on 14 shots per game. The Atlantic 10 Player of the Year was the heart and soul of one of the best Temple teams in recent history.
Even though both Temple squads would lose to the higher seeded teams of Iowa and Indiana, their successes were indicative of a larger trend that goes back years further. Whether it was Ramone Moore, Ryan Brooks, or even Dionte Christmas, Temple’s best teams in the Fran Dunphy era have all had a clear cut number one scoring option. When things went arie, the ball went back to the number one scoring option. When the clock was ticking down, the ball went back to the number one scoring option. There was always an outlet who could score better than anyone else on the court. Every single one of Dunphy’s NCAA tournament teams has had that player.
But does this year’s Temple team have that guy?
Coming into the season, the 2017-18 squad was touted as one of the most deep Temple teams in recent memory. They had steady point guard Josh Brown and sharpshooting guard Shizz Alston. Quinton Rose was the athletic, playmaking 3-man, while Obi Enechionyia could catch-and-shoot, block shots, and jump over everyone. Topped off with two ‘5’ men who could complement each other in Ernest Aflakpui and Damion Moore, along with dead eye shooting point guard Alani Moore and a talented freshmen class, this team looked like the program’s best in a long time. In past years, with their superstar power, Temple had made it to and played well during the NCAA tournament. Still, like as the Iowa and Indiana game show, they always fell short. While the teams’ thrived with a go-to scorer, they could have used more around that scorer. This year might have been that year.
They began the season proving the prediction correct. Dunphy’s squad knocked off the Power 5 teams of Auburn, Clemson, South Carolina, and Wisconsin. But they have also had a few tough spots. Two losses to La Salle (7-10) and George Washington (8-9), put a sour taste in the mouths of Temple faithful. That would all have been easily cured, however, with a win against Villanova at home. Instead, the Owls came out flat, got down early, and finished the game with a 20-point loss, allowing the Wildcats to shoot 60% from the field and 46% from 3.
Three days later they would barely sneak by Drexel, before being handled once again, losing by nearly 20 points to a highly regarded Georgia team. It wasn’t much longer before they would allow 85 points to Tulane and blow a halftime lead against Houston, giving them back-to-back-to-back losses. At that point it became clearer than ever. The Owls were missing a legitimate number one scoring option, someone to take over the game when things went south.
Instead, they have been going with a number one scoring option by committee. Sometimes that means it’s Rose’s turn. Other times it means that it is Alston’s turn. Sometimes it’s even Enechionyia’s or Brown’s turn. It has left the team without an offensive identity and that stems from a lack of identity at the top of the helm.
The team has specifically struggled with organization, especially on the offensive end. When things start to falter it feels like everyone tries to play hero ball. They fail to get good shots and despite the return of Josh Brown, who was supposed to add more “calmness” to the offense, they have had trouble getting into the flow on the offense end at times. Defense is a whole other issue, but if they can’t keep up offensively, which stems from a go-to scorer, Temple will find themselves watching the NCAA Tournament from home once again.
Their go-to scorer will have to come from Shizz Alston Jr or Quinton Rose. Alston is the more polished scorer, with his ability to play out of the pick-and-roll and hit tough jumpshots. He is methodical like a lot of Temple’s most recent go-to scorers, feeling out his defenders and always playing at his own speed. Rose is the better playmaker. At 6-foot-8, with point guard quickness, Rose can cut through the defense, while finish against the trees. Both can settle for bad shots sometimes, but they both present the ability to score in bunches, efficiently, and consistently. Neither have taken the charge, however, and when Temple has struggled, they both have been unable to weather the storm together.
Temple has specifically had trouble scoring early in the game. As a result, they’ve had to claw back into the game from being down early on. They’ve had trouble doing that however, in large part due to their offensive struggles. When they’ve fallen behind, they haven’t been able to recover. In six of Temple’s nine losses, they were trailing at halftime. In all eight of their wins, they were ahead at halftime.
During the times when they fall behind at halftime, Temple has looked disorganized on offense, often settling for quick, erratic shots. In the past, Temple has been able to turn to players like Wyatt or DeCosey to settle the offense. They wouldn’t always be the ones to take the best shots, but there was a sense of security when they had the ball and the game did not feel out of reach. Temple, like mentioned before, has a few players who could serve that role this year. The deciding factor will be making sure that one of them is given the keys. That could be determined by head coach Fran Dunphy himself or that could decision could be a direct product of one of the players distinguishing themselves. That would make the team’s offensive roles more defined, providing more structure to the Temple offense.
In one of their most recent games against number 19 ranked Cincinnati, the Owls defied all expectations and led for most of the game. While they were sparked by their stout defense, they were efficient offensively, owning the tempo of the game. While Cincinnati wanted to get out and run, Temple kept the game slow. After watching the first half it was hard not to wonder that maybe Temple didn’t need a go-to scorer. But when the game was on the line late, the team struggled once again. They sped up, failed to get good shots, and couldn’t find the bottom of the basket as Cincinnati clamped down on the defensive end. In the final five minutes, they would score just three points with zero converted field goals to Cincinnati's 12 points. The game was a pure representation and just reinforced the point that they could not win without a go-to scorer.
At the same time, many of the country’s best teams play without a go-to scorer, instead having multiple options to put the ball in the basket when necessary. The bottom line is that the Temple offense does not have an identity right now. They have trouble getting into the flow of the game, especially early on, where they have really struggled. Having someone to dictate the tempo and command the team will go a long way in weathering the storms when this Temple team gets behind.
Temple recruiting class of 2018 commit Arashma Parks poses for a photo inside the Owls' locker room.
(Temple University Athletics)
Arashma Parks comes from a basketball family. His mother, Teresita Jones-Thomas, received a full basketball scholarship to Youngstown St. University. His older brother Omari Spellman, a star freshman at Villanova University, was ranked as the 18th best player in the country by ESPN. Taiyier Parks, his younger sister, has a load of offers and was given a 90 overall grade by ESPN's rankings of the women's basketball class of 2019.
But Parks didn’t play basketball growing up -- he was a football player.
“His dad played football,” his mom, Jones-Thomas, said. “After talking to him, and I didn't know this until talking to him about a year or so ago, he always wanted to play football because he wanted his relationship with his father who played football both in high school and college. He wanted to be in the area of football to have a bonding experience with him.”
As a result, throughout elementary school and middle school, Parks played football. While his brother and sister played basketball, that was never in his plans. He would still follow his family around to basketball events even though he wouldn’t play. His mother remembers one particular time when, at his sister's AAU tournament, a basketball coach came up to Parks, questioning why he was on the sidelines. The AAU coach wondered, at Parks’ size (he is now listed at 6-foot-9, 245 pounds), why didn’t he play basketball?
That got Parks thinking. So much so that when high school came along, he dropped football altogether. Basketball now called Parks’ name. It was in his family's blood and football's time had passed.
“It just happened naturally,” Parks remembered. “I knew that once I stopped having fun with football, it was my time. I moved on to a different sport. It was so big that I had to sit down with my family and talk it over it with them to make sure I wanted to do basketball.”
Three years later, Arashma Parks is a Division 1 basketball commit. It's not often that a player who only started playing basketball seriously his freshman year of high school is able to earn a scholarship from the fifth winningest program in NCAA history.
Parks was in good hands, however, as his relationship with his brother helped to crystallize his new interest. From a young age, they would go to the park around their house in the Cleveland area of Ohio and shoot baskets, running off the kids who couldn't keep up with the brothers’ athletic abilities. Their relationship also surpassed basketball. Jones-Thomas described them as best friends.
“They look to each other a lot even though Omari is the older brother,” she said.
When Parks fully committed to basketball, he started in Spellman's AAU program, the PSA Cardinals. Past PSA Cardinal teams (formerly known as Team Scan) had featured players like Kentucky freshman Quade Green, Brooklyn Net Chris McCullough, and New Orleans Pelican Cheick Diallo. Now Parks, who had never really played basketball, would be joining a long list of former, present, and future NBA players.
“Before I could score or rebound, I tried to run the floor,” Parks said of when he first joined the PSA Cardinals. “They knew I was a hard worker, so I just stuck with it.”
If Parks was really going to commit to playing basketball at the collegiate level, the family decided that prep school would be the best option. Moving far away from his home in Ohio, Parks had two choices, The MacDuffie School, where Spellman was headed, or Springfield Commonwealth Academy, which had been founded in 2011. Commonwealth had ironically been built over the land of MacDuffie's former campus (it had been destroyed by a tornado, forcing them to relocate) and was intended to serve the “less affluent.” While most prep schools are majority white, Commonwealth was also built to be intentionally diverse, with 61% students of color. The new school was enticing and different.
This time, Parks didn’t follow Spellman to MacDuffie. He would go on his own path, enrolling at the little known Commonwealth Academy to play under the successful high school basketball coach, Tony Bergeron. Bergeron had previously coached at New York City public school, Wings Academy, steering them to a Top 25 USA Today appearance, and American Christian Academy, where Tyreke Evans had flourished under his direction.
When Parks joined Commonwealth, he was the spark plug of something new. Along with the likes of Hasahn French, who is now at Saint Louis University, and Shyheim Hicks, now at LIU Brooklyn, the prep school defied expectations. Despite being only a few years old, in 2016, they would finish 23-5. In 2017, they were granted the opportunity to play in the National Prep Championship, where they were selected as one of the Top 5 teams in the country, giving themselves a first round bye.
All the while, Parks had only been playing basketball for a few years. Even though he was still learning, he was asked to compete on one of the top prep teams and AAU programs in the country. From the jump, Parks would have to fight for every minute against players who had played the sport for their entire life. As a result, he was largely a role player, playing “two minutes here, three minutes there,” he said.
Still however, there was clear potential in the minutes that he did receive.
“6-foot-9, 240-pound wide body, big shoulders, rebounding big guy,” said Brian Shanahan, his new coach at The Phelps School, where Parks transferred to his senior season. “He's a true post player. So for me that's what's intriguing about him. His potential is outstanding. He moves well, he's strong, but he still hasn’t played a ton of basketball so he's still developing.”
He caught the eyes of the Temple coaching staff when they saw him play during his junior season at Commonwealth. In addition to his reported 7-foot-1 wingspan, they noticed the future in the young man's game.
“They saw me at school,” Parks remembered. “The assistant coach, coach [Chris] Clark, he has been hitting me up ever since. He came to the majority of my games during the school year and summer. We have just been talking on a daily basis. He has been a big part of why I committed to Temple.”
While Parks had interest and offers from George Washington, Pittsburgh, Florida, Butler, Massachusetts, and St. Louis, it was Temple who stayed on Parks. They seemed truly interested in having Parks as a part of the program.
“Consistency,” Parks said of what stuck out about Temple's recruitment. “They wouldn’t just talk with me for one day, and then not for the rest of the week. They talked to me everyday. They made sure I was okay and they made sure that if I had a game, they would be there. They really just seemed interested.”
Jones-Thomas saw the same interest from the program. But she was also intrigued by the coaching staff and what they instilled in their players.
“I liked that Temple had a variety of things on their staff,” she said. “They had coach Dunphy, who was like the monarch, the leader. And he personified himself as the leader. He built great confidence when I was around him. Coach Chris was very family oriented... And then I looked at the players they had, they always said hello. They shook our hands when we came on the visit. So all of those things cultivated in my mind that said he's teaching them that it's more than basketball.”
After coach Dunphy saw Parks play, Temple pulled the trigger, offering a scholarship to the young man from Ohio. While he took some time to think about the deal, it didn’t take long for him to make his decision. He knew where he wanted to be.
So he picked up the phone and called his brother Omari.
“When it came for him to make the decision to go to Temple, he called Omari first, before he even told me,” his mom, Jones-Thomas, remembered. “That's a testament to their relationship.”
Prior to Parks even committing to Temple's recruiting class of 2018, he had decided that he wouldn’t be attending his senior year at Commonwealth. Instead, he would be going to The Phelps School in Malvern, Pennsylvania, where he would play under Shanahan, who had also coincidentally walked on at Temple about a decade ago.
When Parks made the transition to The Phelps School, he knew his role was going to have to change. He was no longer going to be the role player that had been asked of him during his time playing for the PSA Cardinals and Commonwealth. As one of few, if not the only one, with a Division 1 offer, at Phelps, Parks would be relied on to score and defend the opposing team's top big man.
“For us, this will be new for Arashma,” Shanahan said. “Arashma has played on some high level teams and been a little bit of a role player for them at times. He's played with some outstanding players. Now, I’m going to ask him to be a starter, play a bulk of minutes, and be a key piece to our success here at The Phelps School.”
Since his commitment and his enrollment at Phelps, Parks has grown both emotionally and physically.
“He's taking more of a leadership role and he's more confident in his talk because before, we used to have to pull it out of him,” Jones-Thomas added. “Now when we talk, he's leading the conversation and he's passionate about how he's going to get better. I think he's taking a weight lifting class this semester at The Phelps School just to work on his body, his core. And that's truly after he went on a visit and saw the collegiate guys at Temple and he's like ‘Ma, they’re big’...When he saw the guys at Temple, he's like, ‘oh, yeah, I need to get in the gym.’ It’s not as far as making layups. It’s the physicality of it all.”
After living in Massachusetts the past three years, Parks’ move to Phelps puts him closer to his brother at Villanova and family in North Royalton, Ohio. While he has always wanted to write his own path, the new proximity to his family cannot be ignored. His mother no longer has to choose between which state she'll go to to visit her kids. For the next few years, they’ll be nearby once again.
“Even his decision to go to a prep school in Philadelphia, he wanted to be closer to his brother.” Jones-Thomas said. “He wants to be his own person and not live in the shadow of Omari, but still live close enough that there's a level of comfort like ‘hey my brother can get to me and help me if I need it because my mom is six hours away.’ So he chose to move closer to Omari and finish up his high school career.”
Now, after Parks’ commitment to Temple, the brothers will be squaring off every year, and maybe even sticking each other, in one of college basketball's greatest rivalries. It's crazy to think that they’ll be going at it at the Division 1 level, just a couple years after Arashma Parks started to play basketball.
Temple guard Quinton Rose drives to the basket against UConn.
Austin Ampeloquio & Benjamin Simon
NEW YORK — Following Thursday night’s game between Temple and South Carolina, USC’s head coach Frank Martin said that Quinton Rose is a guard who doesn’t look powerful but still plays strong.
If Rose’s strength hadn’t been evident in the first few games this season, where Rose had averaged 17.5 points and 7.3 rebounds, he put it on display early at Madison Square Garden.
And the play that will stick out: a calm toss up from half court, intended as a half court lob to Obi Enechionyia, that instead landed into the basket. And it counted for three points.
Temple (4-1) beat South Carolina (5-2) 76-60 in the finale of the Under Armour Reunion. Temple’s guard play, specifically from Rose, proved to be a key factor in the victory.
While Martin said Rose is a strong player, he probably didn’t think Rose was strong enough to easily throw a halfcourt chest pass into the hoop.
It was just that kind of night for Rose.
Rose’s size and strength proved to be a matchup nightmare for South Carolina’s guards. He scored 24 points and did so efficiently. In 33 minutes, Rose made 10 of his 13 shot attempts including two three pointers and two foul shots.
Rose additionally only had one turnover against South Carolina after turning the ball over seven times in a loss to La Salle on Sunday. That has been a problem for Rose during the first four games, averaging 3.4 turnovers per game on the season. But against South Carolina, Rose was much more under control.
“He did a really good job,” Dunphy said. “Obviously he can score it and he does that, but I thought he handled the ball much better tonight.”
Amongst Dunphy’s seven tournament teams however, only one of their leading scorers by season end has averaged less than two turnovers per game. In other words, turnovers often come with being the go-to scorer in Dunphy’s offense.
Outside of the lack of turnovers, Rose’s shiftiness off the dribble paired with his ability to finish at the rim or make a perimeter jump shot caused even more problems for South Carolina.
Martin acknowledged that and said Rose “understands how to get to his spot and jump up and shoot over a smaller player.”
Rose’s shot selection against the Gamecocks was one of the main keys to his efficient performance. He made an effort to consistently get inside the paint instead of settling for 3-point shots. 10 of his shots came inside the perimeter and only three attempts were hoisted up from behind the arc. His discipline to attack the rim has been a constant in Rose’s top scoring games as he has shot four or less 3-pointers in all of his three 20-point outings.
“I was just going out there trying to be aggressive offensively and defensively to help my team get a win,” Rose said.
Temple’s ability to get steals and push the pace in transition helped with Rose’s shot selection. The Owls had 12 steals and forced 17 total turnovers on the Gamecocks. Temple ended with nine fastbreak points and 18 points off turnovers.
“[When] you turn him loose down court and he’s coming down hill at you, it’s hard,” Martin said of Rose after the game.
Rose’s inclose shot selection seemed to be contagious as well, as Temple outscored South Carolina 38-26 in the paint.
Sophomore center Damion Moore specifically benefited from Temple’s attacking of the basket, scoring a career-high 20 points on 8 of 11 shooting against the Gamecocks. Rose said Moore’s consistency at the rim against South Carolina helped spread the floor for Temple.
“If [Damion] has it going, he knows I’m going to dump off,” Rose said. “It makes it a thousand times easier.”
Moore’s success in the paint provided an option that the Owls hadn’t had all year. Up until that point, neither Moore nor Aflakpui, the ‘5’ men for Temple, had scored double digit points individually. Their ability to score inside going forward would provide a dimension that no one else on the Temple roster can match, especially when Obi Enechionyia is running more of a stretch ‘4.’
After their win against South Carolina, the Owls are now 18th in the nation in terms of strength of record and 2nd in terms of RPI (Rating Percentage Index), according to ESPN’s BPI. Temple has wins over Old Dominion, Auburn, Clemson, and South Carolina. In five games this season, the Owls have only lost to Big 5 rival La Salle. After beating the Gamecocks at Madison Square Garden, Rose said the team is feeling confident and has to use the win as momentum heading into Washington D.C.
“I think we’re in a good spot,” Rose said. “We’re right where we want to be...so we just have to keep this energy going.”
Temple takes on George Washington on Sunday, where they will look to take advantage of a 3-4 Colonials squad. The Washington D.C. school is led by senior Yuta Watanabe who will provide an inside-outside scoring attack at 6-foot-9. The Japan native has averaged 14.7 points per game and 7.3 rebounds, while attempting 30 3-pointers on the season. His ability to score and attack the boards will certainly put Moore, Aflakpui, and Enechionyia to the test.
And who knows?
After Rose’s showing of strength against South Carolina, Temple fans may see Rose going at Watanabe, cleaning the glass, and putting more pressure on the George Washington defense.
The Empire's season podcast series will cover college basketball in the City 6. We will be releasing a podcast to accompany a written report covering our outlook for the teams' seasons. Please note that the podcasts and the written season previews may differ in writers and opinion.
The Temple Owls showed signs of potential last season, but were ultimately an inconsistent team. The Owls finished the 2016-17 season with a 16-16 record and missed out on postseason basketball. It was the third time in the past four seasons that head coach Fran Dunphy’s team has failed to make the NCAA Tournament.
Despite the .500 record, Temple had back-to-back wins over Associated Press Top 25 opponents last year. Those victories showed that Temple had the individual talent to compete with some of the best teams in the nation.
The Owls won the 2016 NIT Tip-Off Championship after defeating then-No. 25 Florida State on Thanksgiving and No. 19 West Virginia the day after at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Other than that big weekend though, during their non-conference slate the Owls lost to mid-major New Hampshire and a UMass team that ended with a losing record. Temple also struggled in American Athletic Conference play, capping it off with a 7-11 conference record. The Owls finished eighth in The American standings and ended their season by losing to East Carolina in the first round of the conference tournament.
Because of the shaky results from last season, Temple has been selected as the seventh best team in The American for the 2017-18 preseason rankings.
Despite the low ranking, the Owls have a deep team heading into next season with redshirt-senior guard Josh Brown expected to be back playing consistent minutes. With more key players returning for the Owls and four new freshmen joining the team, as well as a schedule that boasts at least 10 opponents that played postseason basketball last season, Temple will be an interesting team to follow this season.
Who’s Gone? Daniel Dingle (G/F, graduation), Mark Williams (F, graduation), Mike Robbins (G, graduation), Isaiah Lewis (G, Transfer)
The Owls didn’t lose too many significant players. Daniel Dingle was a big part of Temple’s scheme last season as a starter and one of the primary ball-handlers. Dingle played and started all 32 games for the Owls and was second on the team in minutes, only behind Shizz Alston Jr., who will probably fill Dingle’s role.
Mark Williams was a senior who only logged 509 minutes and contributed 6.1 points per game. Mike Robbins and Isaiah Lewis also saw limited minutes. The two walk-ons combined to just play 125 minutes last season.
The 2017 graduating class will be replaced by a talented group of rising upperclassmen with players like Obi Enechionyia, Quinton Rose, Alani Moore II, Ernest Aflakpui and Damion Moore. Round that lineup out with the veteran leadership of redshirt-senior Josh Brown and the Owls won’t have too much trouble filling in the spots that have left.
Who’s New? J.P. Moorman II (F, Fr.), Nate Pierre-Louis (G, Fr.), Justyn Hamilton (F, Fr.), De’Vondre Perry (F, Fr.)
Temple’s incoming recruiting class is one of the highest rated under Dunphy. J.P. Moorman II, Nate Pierre-Louis,and Justyn Hamilton were all rated as four-star recruits on ESPN while De’Vondre Perry was rated right below them at three stars.
Dunphy has said that each of the freshman will be interchangeable since each can play at least two different positions. Dunphy said Pierre-Louis will be playing the one and two, Perry the two and three, Moorman the three and four and Hamilton the four and five.
The four freshman add even more depth to a team that already looked deep without them. Dunphy is known for making freshman earn their minutes, so it will be interesting to see how playing time will be distributed among the newcomers.
Projected Starting Lineup:
RS Sr. G: Josh Brown (Proj. Stats: 8 PPG, 5 APG, 5 RPG)
Brown only played in five games last season while recovering from a torn achilles. In 2015-16, Brown was one of the leaders on that American Athletic Conference regular season championship team that went to the NCAA Tournament. He averaged 8.3 points, 4.9 assists, and 4.8 rebounds that season. Brown also ranked eighth in Division I in assist-to-turnover ratio. In his final season at Temple, Brown should hover around his 2015-16 numbers while he plays with a team that is more talented all around compared to previous seasons.
Temple guard Josh Brown dribbles the ball.
(Photo credit: Timothy D. Sofranko)
Jr. G: Shizz Alston Jr. (Proj. Stats: 15 PPG, 4 APG, 1.8 SPG)
Alston, the reigning Big 5 Most Improved Player, is arguably Temple’s best one-on-one offensive weapon with his ability to create space and score or pass off the dribble. He was Temple’s leading scorer last year with 13.7 points per game, as well as the Owls leading assist man, averaging 4.1 assists a contest. Alston also showcased his defensive potential last season as Temple’s steals leader, averaging 1.7 steals on the season for the Owls.
So. F: Quinton Rose (Proj. Stats: 11 PPG, 1.5 SPG, 45 FG%)
Rose is already being talked about as an NBA draft prospect after one year with the Owls. Rose showed up on CBS Sports’ “Ridiculously early 2018 NBA Mock Draft” as a first round selection. Rose thrives in the open court due to his length and athleticism. The 6-foot-8 guard has the ability to push the pace in transition and finish at the rim consistently, whether it be with an athletic layup or a highlight-reel dunk. As a freshman, Rose averaged 10.1 points per game and was second on the team in total steals.
Sr. F: Obi Enechionyia (Proj. Stats: 18 PPG, 8 RPG, 40 3P%)
Obi Enechionyia started last season looking like an NBA lottery pick. For the first six games, the junior forward averaged 20.2 points, 9 rebounds, and shot 56.3 percent from the 3-point line. Halfway through the season, Enechionyia fell in an overall slump and saw his numbers drop. Enechionyia ended the season averaging 13.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, and a 38.5 percent 3-point field goal percentage. Despite the slump, Enechionyia’s skills are clearly there. The only question is his consistency. Enechionyia has been ranked as one of the top-50 college basketball players for the 2017-18 season by The Big Lead, so the expectations for him are high. There is no doubt that Enechionyia will be a main concern on scouting reports all season long.
Jr. F: Ernest Aflakpui (Proj. Stats: 8 PPG, 6 RPG)
Ernest Alakpui’s numbers have never jumped off the stat sheet in his two years at Temple, but he is a steady player. Aflakpui serves as a strong, physical big who can set screens, grab rebounds, alter shots at the rim and make an occasional post-shot when needed. Aflakpui’s output will need to rise this season with Temple’s competitive schedule. His rebounding numbers should increase from his five rebounds per game mark in 2016-17 since he is more experienced now and used to the physicality of the college game. With Josh Brown running the point as a true distributor who can naturally spread the floor, expect Aflakpui to have more chances to score as well.
Reserves: Alani Moore II (G, Soph.), Damion Moore (C, Soph.), J.P. Moorman II (F, Fr.), Nate Pierre Louis (G, Fr.), Justyn Hamilton (F, Fr.), De’Vondre Perry (G, Fr.)
Temple has a lot of young talent that can come off the bench in 2017-18. Alani Moore II is the player who has the most experience if he were coming off the bench. He participated in all 32 games last season and had significant plays that contributed to some of Temple’s biggest wins.
The frontcourt will be primarily backed up by sophomore center Damion Moore. Moore only played in 20 games last season but showed that he had a midrange jumpshot, intimidating presence in the post, and the ability to finish strong at the rim.
After the two sophomores, Dunphy can choose from the interchangeable group of freshmen who will be eager to show their potential at the college level.
Temple has one of its toughest schedules in recent years. The Owls will play at least 10 postseason teams this season with the chance of playing up to 12 depending on how the Gildan Charleston Classic Bracket plays out. Other than focusing on the usual high profile rivals like Villanova and Cincinnati, we’ll focus on some of the rarer opponents on Temple’s schedule.
vs. South Carolina (Nov. 30th, 2017)
Temple will head to Madison Square Garden the week after Thanksgiving to take on 2017 Final Four participant South Carolina in the Under Armour Reunion. The Gamecocks are returning two starters and seven letterwinners from their 2017 Final Four team.This is a chance for Temple to prove they can compete on a neutral court with a team that is coming into the season with tons of momentum.
vs. Wisconsin (Dec 6th, 2017)
The Owls won’t play at home during the November stretch, but Temple’s home-opener will be against Big 10 powerhouse Wisconsin in early December. This is the final game of a home-and-home deal, which the two teams agreed to in 2015 when the Badgers played in the National Championship game. The season after the Badgers appeared in the National Championship game, they beat Temple 76-60 at Wisconsin.
vs. Wichita State (Feb. 1st, 2018)
One of the biggest non-traditional opponents for Temple in 2017-18 will now become an annual foe. Wichita State and Temple have only played each other a few times in school history, but now that the Shockers have been added to The American, the two teams will play each other every season. Wichita State is expected to be a top 10 team throughout the season and a contender for the national title. The Shockers are ranked No. 7 in the Associated Press Top 25 Preseason Poll for the 2017-18 season which gives the Owls another chance to prove they can compete at an elite level.
Temple has a tough schedule ahead of them, but they also have enough talent to stay competitive throughout the season. Their success all depends on how quickly the team can build chemistry and find their identity. The Owls play their first six games on the road, so the team will have to find continuity at the start of the season if they want to build the confidence to be successful.
With a veteran leader in Josh Brown and two NBA prospects in Obi Enechionyia and Quinton Rose, the Owls definitely have depth.
Temple’s offense is currently ranked as the 31st best in the country by Sports Illustrated and the 32nd best according to the 2017-18 ESPN Basketball Power Index Ratings. The question lies in the Owls defense.
If the Owls can protect the rim and prevent penetration from the perimeter, expect them to end with 20-plus wins this season.
Also, if Trey Lowe makes his return sometime this season, Temple will be an even deeper squad than initially expected.
“I think [Quinton Rose] surprised a lot of people on how ready he was [as a freshman]. I think he’s highly respected by the other teams in our league and by the prognosticators who are talking about college basketball players for this year. He’s got himself where he wants to be and the next step is to absolutely be killing it on the defensive end and making really good decisions on offense.” - Fran Dunphy on Quinton Rose’s impact last year and transition to this year - Recorded during interview at practice on 10/13/17.
“I think [Trey Lowe] is trying to think about that right now. He’s not ready to play at this point. That would be something that he wants to improve, his guard skills, his playing making skills. He’s trying to do all of that, improve his ball handling, improve his decision making but he’s just trying to get back on the court to be somebody that we can count on. He’s working really hard at it. I’m proud of him.” - Fran Dunphy on Trey Lowe working on being able to play point guard and recovery progress - Recorded during interview at practice on 10/13/17.
“I think we always wanted to be the same. A really good defensive team and really good on the offensive end in terms of decision making and efficiency. We’re not a run and shoot kind of team, although we shoot a lot of threes. On the defensive end we want to be as solid as we can, that’s what we’re trying to be. We’re not a pressing team by any stretch.” - Fran Dunphy on the team’s identity early into official practices - Recorded during interview at practice on 10/13/17.
“I wish I could tell you that we had a Tony Allen amongst us, but we don’t. We’re working toward that end...like Big Ern [Ernest Aflakpui], that’s what he’s got to do. He needs to be the best defender he can be, he has to be the anchor for our defense and be great back there not only physically but mentally and communication wise.” - Fran Dunphy on if any individual player has stood out to him defensively early into official practices - Recorded during interview at practice on 10/13/17.
“I play basketball and this is my passion. I love playing it so I’m not going to be mad out here all the time and too serious all the time. Obviously there is a time and place for everything but I like to keep the spirits light and when I stop having fun with it, then I’ll be done with it. That’s kinda the motto I go by.” - J.P. Moorman II on the energy he brings to the team during practices - Recorded during interview at practice on 10/13/17.
Austin Ampeloquio (@AustinPaulAmp)
A season ago in the midst of a snowstorm, Temple was able to defeat then, eighth-ranked, undefeated, SMU in a season defining moment. The 89-80 upset victory over the Mustangs on January 24th, 2016 gave the Owls confidence and momentum for the rest of the season. They won nine out of their remaining eleven conference games, which resulted in an American Athletic Conference regular season championship -- Temple’s first ever.
This year however, things played out a little differently when SMU came to Philadelphia. The Mustangs were once again a top-25 team and the snow storm still showed up, but Temple’s offensive game did not. Overall for the contest, the Owls shot 30.9-percent from the floor, 26.7-percent from three and 61.5-percent from the foul line. Temple’s low-percentage offense made it difficult for them to catch up to SMU, who at one point in the game, led by as many as 16.
The Owls were so out of rhythm offensively against the Mustangs, that they went without a field goal for nearly 10 minutes. The field goal drought came in the first half, and began when Quinton Rose was able to get a fast break dunk off of a steal at the 10:44 mark. For the next nine minutes and twenty-five seconds, the Owls only scored one point on a free throw from Daniel Dingle. Temple’s next field goal came at the 1:19 mark when Rose tipped in his own miss. The Owls were able to keep things close though, and in large part, their competitiveness was credited to their effort on the defensive end.
In the first half, Temple held SMU to 32.1-percent shooting overall and an even worse 14.3-percent from behind-the-arc. Although the Owls made an effort to contest shots and were able to contain the Mustang’s offensively to a certain extent, SMU’s length, athleticism and ability to score in the paint and from the perimeter proved to be too difficult to actually stop. In particular, Temple failed to prevent SMU’s Semi Ojeleye, the redshirt junior transfer from Duke, from putting the ball in the basket.
By the end of the first half, Ojeleye already had 13 points on just three field goals, and by the end of the game, he more than doubled his first half scoring numbers by finishing with 30 points overall. His ability to draw fouls and get to the free throw line was one of the prime factors in holding Temple off from coming back in the game. Ojeleye ended with 10 free-throws made out of 11 attempted, which not only displayed Ojeleye’s knack for drawing contact, but also exposed Temple’s over-aggressiveness on defense.
The effort on defense was there for the Owls, but the execution failed to match. Several times, Temple’s defenders would run into screeners, jump over the back of rebounders and jump on pump fakes by shooters. The lack of discipline on the defensive end led to the Owls falling into foul trouble. Every player who played for Temple picked up at least one personal foul and in total, Temple had racked up 20 personal fouls by the end of the game. The Temple fouls resulted in 25 total free throws attempted by SMU. In contrast, The Owls only got to the line 13 times, and made just eight of those attempts.
“We got to attack the basket,” Enechionyia said after the 66-50 loss to #25 SMU. “Sometimes we settle for jumpshots too much and it’s tough to win a game when you do that. I don’t think we draw enough fouls. The only way to do that is to attack the basket and that gets them in foul trouble and makes the game easier.”
As a team, Temple ranks 10th in the American out of 11 teams in both free throws made and free throws attempted. Contrastly, the Owls rank third in the American in three-pointers made and first in three-pointers attempted. This season, it seems as though Temple is literally playing by the motto, ‘live by the three, die by the three.’ When they make the perimeter shots, they win, and when they don’t make the perimeter shots, they struggle to find points elsewhere, such as in the game against SMU.
“We have shooters on this team, but when the shots don’t fall, it’s tough to win,” Enechionyia said. “We have the players that have the ability to get to the basket. I know for myself, I don’t do that enough. Sometimes I settle and I know I have the ability to get to the cup and draw fouls, so personally I know I have to do that better and [we have to] as a team as well.”
As Enechionyia emphasized, it is not that Temple lacks players who have the ability to get to the rim and draw contact, it is just that they do not make a concerted effort to do so. Daniel Dingle, Shizz Alston Jr., Quinton Rose, Alani Moore, Obi Enechionyia, and even Mark Williams have the moves off of the dribble to penetrate and create contact, but more often than not, they all seem content to just hoist up shots from long distance whether they are contested or not. If the Owls continue to settle for perimeter shots instead of getting easier looks at the rim, the offensive inconsistency may make it hard for them to stay competitive for the rest of the season.
Having said that, the Owls played much better against the Memphis Tigers today at the FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee, as they shot 46.4-percent from the field, 43.5-percent from three and defeated them 74-62.
Despite their performance against the Tigers, the game versus SMU is more representative of how they have played all year. The Owls need to build off their latest performance if they want to finish the season on a high-note.
Photo: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Ernest Aflakpui ended Saturday night with 11 points and 11 rebounds in a 70-62 win against Big 5 rival Penn. The Ghana native isn’t the most talented scorer in the low post, but when Temple goes through a scoring drought, Aflakpui always seems to find a way to make a couple tough layups in the lane to get his team back in rhythm.
“Ern's not an accomplished scorer,” Temple head coach Fran Dunphy said of his 6-foot-10 sophomore center. “Although today, that was one of the things he did very well. He finished well down there.”
Despite the 11 points from Aflakpui, he seems to understand his role on the floor. Still a raw offensive talent in the post, Aflakpui is not too concerned with being the primary option to put the ball in the basket. Aflakpui did a good job of not forcing bad shots in the post against Penn, and credited his teammates with giving him easy looks at the basket to put him in position to score.
“We are a family. We pick each other up when we're down,” Aflakpui said after the game. “It was just a moment in time that my teammates found me in open spots and were confident in me to make shots.”
Aflakpui is known more as a defensive anchor for the Owls, but he did mention that he does work on all facets of his game. The hard work showed off in the win against Penn, as Aflakpui was able to score down low every time Penn made a run during the game.
“Ern was good on the rebounding end and making shots. That's not one of our strong suits, finishing at the rim, but he did a good job of that,” Dunphy said. “I thought he gave us some really good minutes, but other times I was hoping he'd save us a little bit on the defensive end.”
Although Aflakpui played a strong game, both him and coach Dunphy realized that he is still has so much to learn about the game. Yes, he scored in double figures, but even with the double-double against the Quakers, there is no ignoring the fact that Aflakpui struggled defensively against AJ Brodeur, Penn's standout freshman big man.
Brodeur, who came into the Temple game averaging 13 points per game, dominated Aflakpui most of the contest in the low post area, and ended with 17 points. Both Aflakpui and Dunphy acknowledged the situation.
“First of all, I'm a defensive minded player.” Aflakpui said. “I don't think I did a good job today, so I'm still working on that, but defense is my main priority.”
Dunphy added that he tells Aflakpui to watch old tapes of former Temple star and current NBA forward, Lavoy Allen. A number of times, Dunphy has said that Allen is the smartest player he has ever coached, and now, Dunphy wants Aflakpui to develop that same defensive awareness that Allen carried on the court for Temple.
“I talk to him [Aflakpui] all the time about watching tapes of Lavoy Allen,” Dunphy said. “Lavoy Allen, in the four years that he played here, made maybe four mistakes defensively. That's how good he was. He was never out of position. So [I tell Aflakpui to] ‘Watch him [Lavoy Allen]. Watch what's going on. Learn from that. Feel the game better.’ But Ern is learning.”
Aflakpui may not have the innate IQ or scoring ability that Lavoy Allen has, but Aflakpui certainly has the size, speed, frame and work ethic to resemble the way that Allen plays. The double-double that Aflakpui posted against Penn shows the potential that the young forward from Ghana has, and with his junior and senior seasons still left to develop, Temple may have another reliable big man in the paint.
Aflakpui is far from the player that Allen is, but there is hope that Aflakpui can develop into the same brand of player that Allen was at Temple. Allen was known as a hardworking, hustling, relentless and tough player who was skilled with and without the basketball thanks to his awareness of the game. Aflakpui has already proven that he has the ability to play with hustle and toughness. The next step in development for Aflakpui now is to become the smart and savvy player Allen was at both ends. With two more years remaining under Dunphy, there is no doubt that Aflakpui has the potential to be the next great frontcourt player for Temple.
Photo: Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports
Without a true experienced backcourt to start the 2016-17 basketball season, many expected Fran Dunphy's Temple Owls to struggle with playmaking, decision making and overall execution on both offense and defense. Temple's senior point guard, Josh Brown, is still sidelined as he recovers from a torn achilles tendon while Trey Lowe, the Owls standout freshman from last season, decided to redshirt due to injuries sustained in a car accident late last February.
As a result of the major injuries, Quinton Rose, Alani Moore II, and Shizz Alston have all been thrust into the main rotation for the Owls. Although the three young guards have shown their inexperience with questionable shots and blown defensive assignments every once in awhile, the talented trio put their capabilities on full display during the NIT Season Tip-Off in Brooklyn over Thanksgiving.
Alston, Rose, and Moore played significant minutes as Temple took on two ranked teams during the tournament. Thanks to the play of the young guards, the Owls were able to knockoff both of those teams and were crowned the 2016 NIT Season Tip-Off Champions.
In the semifinal of the NIT Season Tip-Off, Temple was able to overcome an 18-point deficit in the second half against the 25th-ranked Florida State Seminoles. With 13:30 left to play in the game, Quinton Rose turned over the ball on a bad inbounds pass which led to an easy layup for the Seminoles to put them up 60-42. Subsequently, Fran Dunphy burned a timeout.
But from that point on, Rose and Alston were determined to get their team back in the game.
“We just looked at each other. Me and [Rose] brought everybody together and said ‘Let's go. It’s time to pick it up. We're on the big stage, we’re not going out like this,’” Alston said after the game. “Down 18 points, we're going to fight back and win this game.”
Fight back is exactly what the Owls did and the tone was set by both Rose and Alston.
Rose hit a calm jumper right out of the timeout to make it a 16-point game, and after getting a stop on defense, Rose drained a 3-point bucket off an assist from Alston to go on a 5-0 run on his own and cut the FSU lead to 13 points in just 42 seconds. From that point on, the Seminoles just could not contain Rose or Alston.
Rose was able to take FSU's guards off the dribble and draw several fouls to stop the clock and take points off the board while Alston kept on nailing step back three after step back three. The two young guards went on to score the next 16 points for Temple, which included five straight made free throws from the freshman Rose and three straight 3-pointers from the sophomore Alston.
Alston only scored four points at halftime, but by the end of the game, he racked up a total of 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the floor, 4-of-8 from three and a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line. Alston had huge stops on defense as well and was able to come away with 3 steals while also finding his teammates throughout the game, ending with 4 assists. Undoubtedly, this was the best showing of Alston’s short career at Temple so far after struggling to contribute consistently his freshman season.
“Everybody knows it's been a tough start for me, especially shooting the ball,” Alston said. “So when I saw those threes go in, I just wanted to cry. I haven't made that many threes in a while...It felt normal again.”
Rose filled up the stat sheet in the comeback win over Florida State as well, scoring a game and career high 26 points. Rose also added 4 assists and 6 rebounds to his line, showcasing how he can affect the game in more ways than one.
“They were being aggressive defensively, so we knew we had to match the aggressiveness on offense,” Rose said. “We had to play aggressive, attack baskets and make shots and that's what we did.”
Aggressive might be an understatement to describe Rose’s play during the game. Rose was able to get to the line 15 times and made 12 of those free throw shots. That aggressive play was one of the main reasons why Temple was able to come back from FSU’s double digit lead, and in the championship game the following day against #19 West Virginia, that same aggressiveness was matched. This time however, it was the smallest player on the court that showed his toughness and ability to get to the free throw line when needed.
Although West Virginia’s full court pressure has been known to force teams into submission by cutting off passing lanes, getting up in ball carriers’ faces, and forcing several turnovers, Temple was unphased by Bob Huggins’ signature defense for most of the game. A major reason why Temple was able to exploit ‘Press Virginia’ was thanks to 5-foot-10 freshman, Alani Moore II.
The young point guard may be small, but his athleticism and speed caused major problems for WVU's pressure. Each time Moore received the ball in the backcourt, he was able to out run double teams and find holes in the Mountaineer's high risk, high reward defense. When the Mountaineers failed to keep up with Moore off the dribble, they fouled the freshman, but he made them pay.
Moore was able to hit entirety of his eight free throws, all of them coming in the second half, keeping Temple in the game after WVU had come back from being down 20 points.
“I stayed with my normal routine,” Moore said after the game about his clutch free throw shooting. “I stayed focused and locked in and just made the shots.”
Not only did Moore’s aggressive attacks off the dribble get himself easy points at the free throw line, but that ability to dribble away from double teams created easy looks for his teammates as well. If it was not for Moore’s speed and ball handling, Obi Enechionyia’s 22 points would have been much harder to come by and Temple may not have beaten the 19th-ranked Mountaineers 81-77.
“I thought (Moore) really stepped up today. The presence and toughness he had hasn't necessarily shown itself before today,” Fran Dunphy said of the freshman point guard. “I thought he really stepped up towards the end of the first half, and then again making all those foul shots...I think he really arrived today.”
It was only a two game stretch, but the clutch performances from the underclassmen backcourt against two ranked teams gave people a taste of what can be a dangerously underrated Temple Owl team.
Yes, the season is early, and yes, they have shown already shown their growing pains in losses to New Hampshire and Massachusetts. But when this team gets it going, they are hard to stop. With older guys on the team like Daniel Dingle and Obi Enechionyia already off to solid starts, the blossoming of Quinton Rose, Alani Moore II, and Shizz Alston over the Thanksgiving tournament has created even more offensive options. If the young guards are able to sustain their efficient, aggressive, and intense play, do not be surprised to see the Owls dominate come time for conference play and a run at the NCAA Tournament.
Photo: Austin Ampeloquio/The Empire
Shizz Alston Jr. is currently the sixth most efficient passer in the entire NCAA. He has an assist to turnover ratio of 10.5 and through four games, has turned the ball over only twice. In 141 total minutes played, Alston has racked up 24 assists to that pair of turnovers, and the confidence of the sophomore guard continues to grow as each game passes by. None of the other five players ahead of Alston in the assist-to-turnover ratio standings nationally have played as many minutes as he has, and this tremendous efficiency from the underclassman is a telling sign of just how much positive progress he has gone through in such a short amount of time.
“His assist-to-turns are really good,” Temple head coach Fran Dunphy said of Alston after Temple’s 88-67 win over Manhattan on Sunday. “Everybody is comfortable playing with Shizz and now he’s really starting to understand what his role is.”
More and more, it is becoming clearer that the “role” Dunphy mentions references Alston’s increased job in the backcourt, as many of the Owls’ pieces are missing due to injury, including fellow sophomore guard, Trey Lowe and senior captain, Josh Brown.
In fact, Alston is playing very similarly to how Josh Brown played last season when Brown was thrusted into the primary rotation after the point guard position was left vacant following the graduation of Will Cummings. By the end of last season, Brown was eighth in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio and was the main reason why Temple, as a team, ended their 2015-16 campaign ranked third in the nation in fewest turnovers per game.
Alston is doing more than just finding his team open looks though.
During Temple’s blowout win against Manhattan, Alston was able to score a career high 17 points on an efficient 7-of-11 shooting from the floor. His scoring came, in large part, thanks to his court awareness, constantly finding open holes in the Jasper’s zone defense. For several possessions, Alston would cut to dead spots around the high-post and free throw line area to nail open mid-range shots. Alston was also able to fill in every single stat in the boxscore except for turnovers.
The second year guard was able to grab three defensive rebounds, record two steals, and reject a shot at the rim for a block. When the season started, Alston made known that this kind of all around play was how he wanted to contribute to the team.
“I told myself, when I’m not scoring, I have to do other things to help my team,” Alston said after the Owls first game of the season earlier in November. “I feel like that gives us some energy. My blocks, and my steals...give us some life.”
Before the season began, Fran Dunphy noted that he had different expectations for Shizz Alston Jr. this year, but did not really specify what those expectations were. With his recent efficient play, the Owls and coach Dunphy should now be looking forward to how Alston can continue to run the offense with a continued confidence and efficiency, while also playing reliable defense against opposing guards.
“He played very well. He’s got a better sense of who he is right now,” Dunphy said. “It was not an easy freshman year for him. I think he picked up a lot tonight...he came of age, and as we move forward, he’s going to be expected to do even more for us.”
Photo: Charles Fox/Philly.com
-Temple plays UCF this Sunday