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