Benjamin Simon & William Derry
Temple finished the 2015-16 regular season on a high note, as they were crowned champions of the American Athletic Conference (AAC) with a 20-10 record.The Owls went on to play in the semifinals of their conference tournament, where they fell short of a title, but still earned a bid to March Madness after missing out on the tournament for the past two seasons.
In a nailbiter, Iowa defeated Temple 72-70 with a buzzer-beater putback in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, robbing Fran Dunphy and company of the opportunity to face off against the eventual NCAA champions: the Villanova Wildcats.
Dunphy now enters his 11th season at the helm of the Temple men’s basketball program. In 2015-16, the all-time winningest coach in Philadelphia Big 5 history earned the American Athletic Conference Coach of the Year honor for the second consecutive year. And now Dunphy’s coaching skills will be put to the test once again. As a result of four seniors graduating last spring, Temple will rely heavily on young, inexperienced players to come in and compete for minutes.
Furthermore, the Owls may be without senior guard Josh Brown for most of the season due to his ongoing recovery from an achilles tendon surgery. Brown’s absence will catapult freshman guard Alani Moore into the line of fire, as he will likely begin the campaign in the starting five.
Jaylen Bond (F, graduation), Devin Coleman (G, graduation), Quenton DeCosey (G, graduation), Devontae Watson (F/C, graduation), Trey Lowe (G, Injury)
Temple graduated four seniors last season in Quenton DeCosey, Devin Coleman, Devontae Watson, and Jaylen Bond.
DeCosey, who started in all 33 games last season, led the Owls in scoring with 15.9 points per game and ranked second in rebounding (6.0), assists (85) and three-pointers (49), which resulted in a first team All-AAC selection. DeCosey was the team’s go-to scorer and they will have trouble replicating his ability to put points on the board.
Bond was Temple’s lone team captain and a second team All-Philadelphia Big 5 honoree. He led the team in rebounding (8.5), grabbing 541 boards in his two years on North Broad. He was also the anchor of the defense, disrupting opposing big men with his long arms and wingspan. Coleman was a lethal outside shooter off the bench, converting a team-high 64 three-pointers. He was a streaky shooter who could get hot at any moment (hence the 23 point, 7-7 from three point range performance against SMU).
Watson was a reliable big off the bench, who along with DeCosey, Bond, and Coleman, will be missed. At 6-foot-11, Watson occupied a lot of space and was used in situations when the team needed a bigger body to play defense.
Finally, Lowe will redshirt the season after getting in a car accident last March. He will stay with the team and rehab in preparation for next season. Lowe showcased his ability to score in freshman season in bursts. Although he only averaged 4.8 points per game, he had 3 double digit scoring outings, including a 21-point outing against Villanova.
Ayan Nunez de Carvalho (G, R-Fr.), Steve Leonard (R-Jr., Transfer), Isaiah Lewis (G, Jr., Transfer), Alani Moore (G, Fr.), Damion Moore (C, Fr.), Quinton Rose (G, Fr.)
The Owls bring in a three person freshmen recruiting class, while adding two transfers (Lewis and Leonard), and a redshirt (Carvalho). From the get-go, the most impactful player in year one will be Alani Moore. Despite being the shortest player on the team at 5-foot-10, Moore is a floor general who is ready to produce right away. He is quick, clever, and mentally mature.
The other two freshmen, Damion Moore and Quinton Rose, will have a tougher time getting consistent minutes. Both are raw, but physically imposing players for their position. Moore is 6-foot-10 and 225 pounds, but extremely young and inexperienced. As a 6-foot-8 guard, Rose has a higher ceiling, but is an equally large project. However, Rose may find more minutes than Moore purely based on his size and mismatch ability for his position.
Lewis and Carvalho will add depth to the team early in the season, but may have trouble finding consistent minutes when Brown returns. Carvalho may be an interesting x-factor for the team after sitting out last season as he got accustomed to his first year living in America. The Argentinean is big for his position at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds. On top of his size, he has played a fair amount of basketball, competing for the U17 Argentina National Team in the 2014 U17 FIBA World Championships, where he averaged 10 points per game. Lewis, on the other hand, comes to Temple after playing JUCO ball at Casper College.
Projected Starting Lineup
G: Alani Moore (7 PPG, 3 APG, 1.5 SPG)
The clever guard from Washington D.C. is the exact opposite of former Temple guards. Freshman Alani Moore can blow by people off the dribble with his elite quickness, a trait Temple fans haven’t seen very often. After years of Juan Fernandez, Khalif Wyatt, and Josh Brown, Moore’s speed will add a nice change of pace. He is labeled as a floor general and should be able to man the team with the help of Alston until Brown comes back.
While Moore should see major minutes early on, he will lose minutes at the 1 when Brown returns. Brown will undoubtedly start when his injury heals, but in the meantime, the team will have extended tryouts to see who will start until Brown comes back. Although Moore could very well find his way on the bench when Brown returns, Dunphy might opt to sit one of the big men in favor of a smaller, more talented lineup, featuring both Moore and Brown sharing the ball.
G: Levan “Shizz” Alston Jr. (13 PPG, 2 APG, 2 RPG)
Altson had a strong season in his first year at Temple. He showed his ability to be a hybrid guard, playing both on and off the ball. His versatility will play a valuable role while Brown is injured. Despite only averaging 2 points and .6 assists per game, Alston made a bigger impact than his stats will suggest. On top of a big first game, where Alston scored 12 points against the then number 1 ranked team, North Carolina, Alston played double digit minutes in twelve straight games to open up the year. But as the season went on, Alston fell out of favor, tallying only three double digit minute games for the remainder of the season. However, if the Owls want to have any success, Alston will need to play well. As the team needs another scoring option, Alston will have many opportunities to prove himself as a legit college basketball player.
F: Daniel Dingle (7 PPG, 4 RPG, .42 FG%)
The rising senior has always had the potential, but has never seemed to live up to it. Despite playing 21 minutes per game, Dingle only averaged 4.4 points per game and shot an abysmal 32% from the field and 24% from three. The good news is, Dingle is back and has trimmed 10 pounds. After looking slow last season, he should bring some versatility to the big man position, using his ability to take slower defenders off the dribble and smaller ones into the post. If Dingle can replicate and build off of the production he had in 2013-14 before he got injured, the team could have a lot of success. It’s no secret that Dingle’s production translates into wins. During the 2015-16 season, in games that he scored more than 5 points, the team went 7-1. He will need to be quick and once again find that respectability from the deep range to improve.
F: Obi Enechionyia (14 PPG, 7 RPG, .41 3P%)
With Josh Brown injured, Obi Enechionyia will enter the season as Temple’s go-to scorer. The junior forward is a versatile big man who is as talented as anyone in the AAC. Last season, Enechionyia had 18 double digit scoring games, including two times where he erupted for 20 points. The power forward is a knock down three point shooter with a beautiful stroke, as he shot 39% from three throughout 2015-16. However, the bigger question marks involve other aspects of his game, rebounding and defense.
With Jaylen Bond gone, Enechionyia will surely need to improve his rebounding and defense. Last season, Enechionyia had a reliable force next to him who he could always count on to do those aspects of the game, while he just scored. But this season is different. The other forward spot next to him will be a question mark. Enechionyia needs to use his athleticism and take over the game in every aspect. No longer does he have a scapegoat to hide his flaws. If he can fill those holes, Enechionyia will surely be one of the best players in the American.
F: Ernest Aflakpui (4 PPG, 7 RPG, .59 FG%)
The big man from Archbishop Carroll struggled to find minutes last season after injuring his knee in his senior year of high school. While he appeared in 18 games, he scored in only 8. But that’s not what Ernest Aflakpui is supposed to do. His job is to rebound, play defense, and hustle. Although he went through growing pains during his first season, Aflakpui gives Dunphy the proper size in the middle of the defense and will provide a complementary role to Enechionyia’s scoring and offensive ability. All he needs to do is play efficiently and Aflakpui will see his minutes increase.
Ayan Nunez de Carvalho (G, R-Fr.), Steve Leonard (R-Jr.), Isaiah Lewis (G, Jr.), Damion Moore (C, Fr.), Mike Robbins (G, Sr.), Quinton Rose (G, Fr.), Mark Williams (F, Sr.)
The Owls will have one of their shallowest benches in recent years. It will be headlined by senior Mark Williams. The forward from Cleveland can stretch the floor with the three ball and play inside if needed. While he is not a go-to scorer or a lockdown defender, he is a solid role player who has now played in the system for four seasons. After Williams, there is not a guy on the bench who has played substantial Division 1 minutes.
While Leonard played at the Division 3 level for Ursinus and Lewis played JUCO ball at Casper College, the bench looks rather inexperienced. With that said, coach Dunphy has some intriguing options. He has two gigantic freshmen, Rose and Moore, who are raw, but talented. Carvalho returns to Temple after redshirting last season and has a lot of playing experience competing with his Argentinian National Team. He has spent a year in the Temple system and is familiar with the team and playing style. Lewis, who struggled to find minutes at Casper College, playing only 15 minutes per game, may not be the savior, but could provide depth at the point guard position with some college basketball experience.
vs. La Salle (Nov. 11th, 2016)
The Owls face a revamped Explorers team on opening night. Temple defeated La Salle last season by 13 points at the Philadelphia Big 5 doubleheader which took place at the Palestra. This Big 5 contest pits an improved La Salle roster against a Temple program that lost four seniors due to graduation. The game on November 11th will be an early test for coach Dunphy’s inexperienced team and will give everyone a sense of the Owls’ potential as a team.
at Villanova (Dec. 13th, 2016)
Temple takes on the defending National Champions in Villanova. Though the Owls lost to the Wildcats last year by 16 points, sophomore guard Trey Lowe had a breakout performance, scoring a career and team-high 21 points. Lowe will not be here this year, as he is redshirting, but the Owls will need another performance like that from someone else. Temple will enter the Pavilion as a longshot to win but the experience and exposure these young Owls will gain is invaluable.
at Connecticut (Jan. 11th, 2017)
After defeating UConn twice during the regular season but losing to them in the American semifinals, Temple will seek revenge when they travel to Hartford, CT in early January. Though the Huskies will be heavily favored coming into this matchup, expect the Owls to compete and hustle for 40 minutes in a major indicator about the outcome of the American.
Despite having one of their most inexperienced teams in recent seasons, in 2016-17, Temple should have some success thanks to their schedule. As of now, Temple only has two teams on their entire schedule that are in the preseason top-25. While they face off against Florida State at the beginning of the season, they also play multiple lighter games, including at home against New Hampshire, Manhattan, and NJIT. In addition, there is a good chance that they will not have Josh Brown back until conference play begins. Therefore, it will be hard to see them pulling off upsets against La Salle, Florida State, or Villanova without their key guy. As a young and inexperienced team that returns only one starter from last year to open the season, it is hard to predict how the team will perform. But with an easier non-conference schedule and Obi Enechionyia returning after a strong finish to the 2015-16 season, the Owls should find themselves with another 15+ win season.
“I’m definitely going to play this year. It’s just a matter of time, when and where. -Josh Brown in an article by CSNPhilly.com
“We don’t have that bona fide scorer. There’s going to be nights when I have to pick up the scoring load, Obi has to pick up the scoring load, Dan, Josh and [Alston] and so forth. But I think that’s a positive for our team because any night, it could be the next guy.”- Mark Williams in an article by The Temple News
“We’re going to have to get this year’s Devin Coleman for us, who bought in, probably was a starter, but bought in to coming off the bench to give us a little bit of a spark. That guy, this year’s Devin Coleman, he’s probably not going to start a lot of games, but he’s going to finish just about everyone.” -Head coach Fran Dunphy in an article by The Temple News
“I think we can go down low a little more. I think it’s been a trend where we tend to shoot a lot of jump shots and play around the key, but guys like Ernest, he does a great job ducking in guys, so I think we’re going to go down there a little more this year. -Daniel Dingle in an article by The Temple News
“If we can get him to have a move or two down there, he doesn’t have to be [Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame center Hakeem] Olajuwon. I just want him to be Aflakpui. But I want him to be able to pass the ball out, repost again and really be a threat down there for us. But he has to finish plays and that’s what he’s working on right now. He’s been shooting the foul shot pretty good, which is what I’m encouraged by.” -Head coach Fran Dunphy in an article by The Temple News
Photo: Jenny Kerrigan/TempleNews