Different Strokes

They are different people and different players who have taken far different paths in their basketball careers, but Juan Fernandez and Ramone Moore have reached the same place — starting senior guards on the Owls' nationally-ranked basketball team.

They are different people and different players who have taken far different paths in their basketball careers, but Juan Fernandez and Ramone Moore have reached the same place — starting senior guards on the Owls' nationally-ranked basketball team.

Moore played his high school ball at Southern High located about seven miles up Broad Street from Temple University. Meanwhile, Fernandez arrived from Argentina, a nice 5,000-mile jaunt.

Moore took an academic redshirt his first year and missed the second half of his freshman season before righting himself in the classroom, then started to make an impact on the court midway through his sophomore year.

Fernandez arrived in the middle of his freshman year and just about stepped off the plane and into the rotation.

Moore is the team leader, a slasher who has developed a complete offensive game. Fernandez is the quiet but flashy point guard who can be lethal from long range if left alone.

Very different, but at the same time, perfect compliments to each other.

"It speaks very well to them as people, they've understood they are two really good basketball players and really good people who are distinctly different in their makeup, on the court and off the court," said Temple coach Fran Dunphy. "They have a great relationship. What I see every single day in practice and everybody else only gets to see it in games is the great mutual respect they have for each other. It's really great to watch."

With contacts in former coach and player Nate Blackwell and former player Lynn Greer, Moore grew up a Temple fan. With a child on the way, he didn't want to play college basketball too far from home and when he received his offer from Dunphy, there wasn't much of a decision to make.

The benefits of that decision have played out over the last two-and-a-half seasons, Moore becoming Atlantic 10 Sixth Man of the Year as a sophomore — primarily because he thrived filling in for an injured Fernandez for a stretch — and this year averaging close to 18 points per game and being named First-Team All-Conference.

The benefits also showed after the Owls' final home game of the season against Massachusetts. Moore sat in the front row of a section filled nearly to capacity with all of his family and friends. He hugged just about all of them over the course of the next hour before walking out of the Liacouras Center as a player for the final time.

"It was very memorable," admitted Moore. "Coming to the game I knew I'd have that many people supporting me. My family has always been my backbone, they've always been there for me. It was a great night, but sad as well. I'm glad I got to go out with a win and I have a lot of memories.

"It was a great decision for me to come here. The first few years weren't all good and dandy, but everything worked out. I'm glad it worked out and I'm glad I stayed here."

For Fernandez, he noted the decision has been a good one as well, even though he admitted taking the plunge initially brought him some concern. Fernandez had extended family with him on Senior Night as well — not as much as Moore — but admitted he only sees his family once or twice a year.

"I wouldn't tell you it wasn't a challenge because it was," said Fernandez. "Everything was new for me and I was pretty scared. .... First time leaving my family and going out on my own. I didn't know what to expect to be honest, but everything here made the transition smoother — my teammates, coaches and friends. Teammates' families adopted me here and took care of me and made sure I was OK.

"It's been pretty awesome, If I had the chance to do it all over again, I would."

Fernandez arrived with understandable comparisons to Pepe Sanchez, an Argentinean point guard who became an All-American at Temple in 2000. Sanchez is a mentor to Fernandez, and they both wear the No. 4.

When he arrived, Fernandez brought the label "Pepe Sanchez with a jump shot."

"He was one of the best defenders I've ever seen, best point guards ever seen," said Fernandez. "We are similar in some ways, a lot different many others. I knew people would compare me to him when I got here, coming from Argentina and wearing No. 4. But hopefully I've made a name for myself.. ...not Pepe Sanchez with a jump shot, just Juan Fernandez."

Dunphy noted how he's not sure how well he would have adapted had someone dropped him in Argentina at the age of 18, but was fairly certain it wouldn't have been as well as Fernandez has made the transition here. Moore admitted he couldn't see himself making a similar leap.

"He's really become acclimated, his English is great now, when he first got here I didn't understand what he was saying," said Moore. "But we've become brothers on and off the court. I'm proud being a teammate of his. He's gotten better each year. ... He's a quiet guy, you have to get stuff out of him, but we've built a friendship that will last forever."

Fernandez was the Owls' second-leading scorer as a sophomore, dropping 33 on Villanova — Wildcats coach Jay Wright has consistently referred to Fernandez as "a killer" — and being named Most Outstanding Player at the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

But his development into an 18-point-per-game player went in a different direction when Moore and junior Khalif Wyatt showed the ability to be big-time scorers.

"The thing I most respected was his second year he was our main guy and he transitioned from being a scorer to more of a point guard," said Moore. "He helps me out and he's a great passer. He makes passes like ‘Wow, that got through there' — the craziest, behind-the-back passes I've ever seen and he has the heart to do it. I don't."

Said Fernandez: "I think you should look at the game of basketball that way, do whatever you can to help your team win, whether it's scoring, managing the game, looking for the hot hand. We emphasize that type of basketball.

"Sophomore year we had a senior point guard in Luis Guz(man) and it was my chance to play shooting guard. Now I'm the point guard of this team and my job is to make everybody else play, then look for myself. The game I'm feeling it, I might try to shoot it a little bit more, but I'm going to look for these guys, because it's awesome to play with two terrific players like they are."

He's been able to make that transition because Moore started to blossom during that stretch sophomore year — including his Tyus Edney-like dash to send a game into overtime against St. Joe's.

"I'm one of those guys that prevailed," said Moore. "I didn't let (early struggles) get me down, and I made the best of my opportunity. Hopefully young guys can learn from me. It might not be easy in the beginning, but it's easy at the end.

"Sophomore year was the time I started to get trust from coaches and teammates, gain confidence. I've been learning how to score more, and I carried it on each summer and worked on my game."

The part of his game that has shown the most improvement is his three-point shooting. He hit just five as a redshirt sophomore, but has 94 over the last two seasons.

"Actually, when I was young, I was a real good jump shooter, but I went to eighth grade, had to play 5 man and lost my jump shot," said Moore. "I got it back in high school, but I went to college and I was more of a driver. It was a lot about confidence, I wouldn't shoot it.

"I told myself into next summer I had to gain confidence, I started hitting them. You see the shot go in .... I think about hitting five in one year, that's crazy, I've hit five in a game now. It's been a tremendous development."

Said Dunphy: "I think it wasn't going to be great right away because he had work to do, but he had a scorers' mentality, and some teams take that drive away and he had to get efficient and proficient as a three-point shooter and that's what he's done."

As a student of Temple history, Moore knows the great guard combinations of the past. He watched Greer, Sanchez and Quincy Wadley a decade ago and is familiar with the Aaron McKie-Eddie Jones-Rick Brunson triumvirate from the early ‘90s.

The legacy Moore is leaving with Fernandez — both are 1,000-point scorers — and Wyatt could be comparable if the Owls can win a couple NCAA Tournament games this year. Last year, Fernandez's basket in the final second beat Penn State and gave Temple its first tournament win since Greer and Wadley reached the Elite Eight in 2001.

"I speak to Lynn a lot, and watching him and Pepe was great as well, I can't compare anybody to those guys," said Moore. "But what we got going on is pretty good, the way we gel is something special."

Dunphy, who coached against some of the other guard combinations while the head coach at Penn, couldn't compare.

"They're all very good basketball players and distinctly different," said Dunphy. "I just feel very fortunate to be in an era when those three guys were together for a couple years. Their legacy is still yet to be written, and it starts this weekend at the Atlantic 10 Tournament."

As his time winds down at Temple, Fernandez said he would definitely recommend Temple to another player in his situation — if he thought the player would be the type of person who could handle it.

"It's not for everybody," said Fernandez. "Every day goes by, I think I made the right decision, to grow as a basketball player and person, become more mature and independent and hopefully keep playing basketball in the future."

Whenever he takes his last three-pointer or throws his final behind-the-back pass for the Owls, he will be ready for the next challenge but also look back fondly.

"I've definitely enjoyed the experience, and it's gone by far too quick," said Fernandez.

Temple fans probably fell the same.

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