Pep In His Step

Asked to describe his junior season at Temple, Dalton Pepper referred to it as up-and-down. For the team. For him. It's probably a good description of his college career, which included two seasons at West Virginia. Moments where he shined, other stretches where his contributions were minimal. That could change this year. Pepper will be the only senior on this year's squad.

Asked to describe his junior season at Temple, Dalton Pepper referred to it as up-and-down.

For the team. For him.

It's probably a good description of his college career, which included two seasons at West Virginia. Moments where he shined, other stretches where his contributions were minimal.

That could change this year. The Owls graduated five players, and Pepper will be the only senior on this year's squad.

He admitted the makeup of the team last year played a part in his role being a little more diminished than most thought after he sat out his transfer year in 2011-2012.

"There were a lot of seniors, Coach (Fran Dunphy) wanted to ride their senior year out a little bit," said Pepper. "Khalif (Wyatt), it was tough to take him out of the game at times. He's such a valuable asset on offense.

"It was frustrating at times. All you can really do is wait until your name is called, and until then root your teammates on and wish for the best."

Pepper didn't often give Dunphy reason to find him time. He shot 32 percent from the field, 26 percent on three-pointers and averaged 2.9 points in fluctuating minutes that included some DNPs in key games – like the win over Final Four team Syracuse and both NCAA Tournament games.

He scored 13 in 18 minutes against Dayton and 11 in 18 minutes against Charlotte in his best games of the season.

Pepper's West Virginia tenure went much the same way. He contributed three steals in the final minutes of an NCAA Tournament win, but overall averaged 3.5 points in just over 10 minutes a game during his two years there.

Much more was expected after he scored 2,207 points at Pennsbury in a heralded high school career that had Wyatt noting last year, "I was a pretty good player in high school. I wasn't Dalton Pepper."

Which raises the question: Is Pepper a solid role player at the college level or can he be that prolific scorer he was in high school?

"Throughout the last couple years, I've been more of a role player, playing defense, making the wide-open shots," acknowledged Pepper. "This year I need to step it up (offensively) and be more aggressive on defense as well."

In a summer league game in the Delaware County Pro-Am League Sunday, Pepper exploded in the second half and showed off an array of offensive skills. He hit threes from the corner, he got to the basket, drew contact and finished.

At the end of the game, Pepper had 31 – a couple nights after dropping 28.

"We lost Scootie (Randall), Khalif and Jake O'Brien and Rahlir (Hollis-Jefferson), our main four scorers," said Pepper. "Someone's going to have to step up, actually a few guys will. We'll see where it comes from.

"I think I'll have a lot bigger role this year, on and off the court, being a leader to the young guys, giving them some experience out there which we don't have much of. I'm just excited right now, excited looking at the schedule we have this year, excited to go to Italy with the team in a couple weeks."

Pepper said he hasn't been disappointed in his college career, feels he made the right decision leaving West Virginia two years ago.

"Freshman year I couldn't ask for a better team making it to the Final Four, sophomore year we made the tournament, this year made it to the tournament," said Pepper. "As a team you couldn't ask for more than making it to the tournament and winning games. I've enjoyed the last few years being around my friends and family, I don't regret the decision to come to Temple at all."

But Pepper – who said he'd like to play overseas when his college career is over – noted there is still something left for him to prove. He has one last season to do it.

"Personally I'd like to do a little more and go out with a bang," he admitted. "I'm happy for this one more year and seeing where it takes me."

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