Coming into the 2016-17 season, Temple will be without four key seniors from last year’s NCAA tournament run. Quenton DeCosey, Jaylen Bond, Devin Coleman, and Devontae Watson were all major parts of the team but have since graduated. There are some concerns as to how Temple is going to be a contender in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) and if they’re good enough to enter March Madness for the eighth time in the last decade. After such a successful season, who can fill the spots of sharp shooters Devin Coleman and Quenton DeCosey? Who will provide the inside presence of forwards Jaylen Bond and Devontae Watson? Emerging star Obi Enechionyia might be the unique answer to both of those questions.
In his high school years and on Nike’s EYBL circuit team, Team Takeover, he was ranked the 3rd best player in the state and the 29th best forward in the country. But what makes him unique? And what kind of success has he had as an Owl? One thing that really sticks out about Enechionyia is his growth from his first to second year. Nearly every statistic went up for Enechionyia, after starting 21 more games his sophomore season than he did his freshman season. As he got more comfortable, he raised his three-point percentage by more than .100 points (38.6%), allowing him to score 170 more points (352 total, 11 PPG) than he did the year before. This kind of growth is crucial to being a good player in college basketball. His growth from a “developing big forward who is just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential” to someone who has shown how he can utilize his skills exemplifies Obi’s ability as a learner and basketball player. So how does he compare to stars from last year?
In the 2015-16 season, Obi Enechionyia played fewer games and got less playing time than Devin Coleman. Despite this, he still scored more total points in the season and averaged almost 2 more points than him per game. Obi placed in the top 30 of scorers in the AAC and managed his way in the top 15 in three-point field goal percentage, where he was just .07 decimal points behind Devin Coleman’s 39.3%. He also had some stats that surpassed even Temple’s top scorer and prized guard, Quenton DeCosey. He made 7 more three-pointers than DeCosey and placed five spots higher in the AAC top 20 for three point makes. In addition, Obi had a better true shooting percentage (TS%) than DeCosey and had a lower turnover percentage (TOV%) at 8.1% than both Jaylen Bond and Quenton DeCosey. Enechionyia weighs 35 more pounds and is 6 inches taller than Coleman, which brings out the comparison of characteristics between Jaylen Bond and Obi Enechionyia.
As a power forward, you should have shooting abilities, but, more importantly, you need to be able to defend the paint, score, show athleticism and of course, be big. Both Enechionyia and Bond fill the criteria in that category. Both are above 6-foot-7 and over 220 pounds. However, in the blocks category, Obi averaged 0.9 blocks per game and was placed 11th in the conference, well before Bond’s 0.7 blocks per game. Obi was second in scoring on the Owls, despite getting an average of 1.4 fewer minutes than Bond per game. Bond also had 6 more personal fouls than Obi in the year. Both players have scouting reports and game tape that reveals their athleticism, even from while in high school. Here’s where Obi really has to fill Bond’s shoes. Last year, CBS.com caught up with Temple’s head coach, Fran Dunphy. He emphasized Jaylen Bond’s leadership role, saying “We need to find that leadership from somewhere else and right now I'd say that Jaylen Bond is providing most of it -- as well he should.” Obi really needs to be a leader this year above anything else.
Throughout Enechionyia’s career, he has proved to be a playmaker and someone who can play with and against some of the best players in the country. Enechionyia has the potential to be the go-to guy that Temple needs him to be. He has shown immense growth from his freshman to sophomore year and will be expected to continue to do so in the 2016-17 season.
Photo: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke