Teams always look to improve season-to-season; that is a given. In college sports, improving is much tougher than in professional sports because players are consistently graduating and going to higher levels in their respective sport. After the 2014-15 season, two of the top four scorers for the Temple University basketball team left the school. This included their top scorer and captain Will Cummings.
During 2014-15, Temple went 26-11 and 13-5 in the American Athletic Conference. They had the help of 14.8 points per game and 34 minutes per game from Cummings. After failing to make it to March Madness in 2014, Temple set out on a mission for 2015-16.
Temple made it to the annual tournament last season, but was outdone in the first round by Iowa, 72-70. That year, Quenton DeCosey was the Owl’s leading scorer; he averaged 15.9 PPG, as well as 34.5 MPG. DeCosey’s stellar season and leadership led Temple into the first round, but not further than that. Even though Temple had a lower win total than the previous year, their 2015-16 schedule was noticeably harder than 2014-15. It was also DeCoesy’s solid play that led Temple to the tournament.
Aside from DeCoesy, two of the other three top scorers for Temple graduated last year. Jaylen Bond and Devin Coleman averaged 9.8 points combined. Bond also had the second highest field goal percentage on the team at .472%. Coleman shot the highest percentage from the three-point line at .393%. Although Devontae Watson also graduated, he played the least amount of time of the 2015-16 senior class. His defense and length will be missed, but hopefully replaced in the form of rising sophomore Ernest Aflakpui and 6-foot-11 incoming freshman Damien Moore.
Last year’s Temple team was one of the best ones they have had in recent years. While they did not get the furthest in the tournament, the team had some high quality players and great chemistry with coach Fran Dunphy. That said, they ran up against a solid Iowa team and could not go further.
The 2016-17 season is fast approaching, and Temple has had time to practice and figure out what they have for this season. With three of the top four scorers having left the institution, who will pick up the scoring?
The second leading scorer for the Owls last season was forward Obi Enechionyia from Springfield, VA. The 6-foot-9 rising junior averaged 11 points last season. This was a drastic step up from the 5.3 points per game he scored his freshman campaign. Now a junior, Enechionyia will walk into a leadership role. After leading his high school to a 22-5 record during his senior season and being the best player on that team, Temple should be confident in Enechionyia to be an effective leader for them.
Another option Temple could turn to for scoring is guard Josh Brown. Yes, he had Achilles surgery in late May and his exact return date is unknown, but the senior to-be averaged 36.2 minutes per game, which was the highest on the team. He tallied 8.3 points per game, 4.9 assists per game and a .413 shooting percentage. As a senior and the point guard, Brown is very much so in a leadership role, and should be a primary target on the court because he is highly unselfish. Even though those statistics are not the greatest, Brown is much farther along in his development from last year. Temple should target Brown often this year. He has proven to be clutch in the big moments.
Temple also should look to their new recruits, Alani Moore and Quinton Rose.
Moore went through three high schools in four years. Each time, he just needed a change of scenery. Even as a 3-star prospect, Moore has been a very valuable asset to all of his high school teams, leading his senior team to a 17-10 overall record and District of Columbia Athletic Association (DCSAA) championship game berth. He is lightning quick, something the Owls haven’t had in many years, and is a heady guard.
On the other hand, Rose committed on August 7, 2015 leading into his senior season. Rose is a 6-foot-6, 6, 170 pound, rail thin shooting guard from Rochester, NY. Unlike Moore, who may be able to contribute right away, Rose is much more raw. He averaged 15.4 points, 7 rebounds with 7 assists during his sophomore season, his third year on varsity.
There is certainly a lot of promise with two high end recruits coming to the university. Who knows if they will be able to produce on a consistent basis in their first season, but with Daniel Dingle ending the season with an injury, Trey Lowe still recovering from the car crash, and Brown returning from his surgery, the freshmen may need to play more than most freshmen typically do.
Temple should look ahead to the 2016-17 season with optimism. Even though they lost most of their top scoring options, a new year means players from the year prior are a year smarter and more developed. Their incoming recruits should be helpful as well. Look for Temple to be in the mix for the AAC championship late in the tournament.
Photo: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
-Temple loses to Penn State in the first round of the NIT tournament