It’s finally time for the Temple University men’s basketball team to wash away the stench of last season’s 9-22 season – one which saw the Owls’ run of six straight NCAA Tournament appearances end in spectacular fashion.
Temple opens the 2014-2015 Friday night with a non-conference game against American at the Liacouras Center.
Temple’s biggest problem in a down season was on the defensive side of the ball as they missed having players like Rahlir Hollis-Jeffersona and T.J. Dileo, who brought a defensive mindset every time they took the court.
Coach Fran Dunphy even admitted at the end of the year the Owls missed their defensive leaders more than Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Khalif Wyatt.
To a degree, the Owls replaced Wyatt’s offense with a breakout year from Dalton Pepper and improved production from Quenton DeCosey among other contributions. But they never found a consistent rhythm on the defensive end.
“We weren’t as good as we needed to be on the defensive end, so most of our energy and efforts have been put forth on the defensive end,” said Dunphy. “That’s really where we made the biggest effort. The guy we need the most is (Texas transfer) Jalen (Bond) because he can guard 1-4 and he’s gonna get stuck on a 5 man occasionally. He needs to be great, not good great, defensively for us and I think he has that in him.”
Temple hopes to solve that problem by inserting several new players into the rotation, topped by Bond, a versatile forward. Sophomore forward Daniel Dingle should also help on the defensive end after he suffered a knee injury early last season before the Owls entered American Athletic Conference play.
“I’m real anxious, it was tough sititng out (the transfer) last year, but I’m looking forward to it,” said Bond. “It helped me a lot to see where I could see where I can help my teammates. Coach wants me to play all-around defense, offense, guarding the best player and I’m looking forward to it.
“The first week of the offseason, all we did was defense, no offense, so we’re focused on it to be the best team we can be.“
In a unique situation, the Owls will add two more transfers – junior guard Devin Colemaan and senior guard Jesse Watson – to the lineup starting with the Dec. 18 game at Delaware as neither is eligible until second semester.
“We get to see different styles of play, different things we can bring to the team this year,” said Bond.
Said Dunphy: “They’re all chomping at the bit to play and doing a good job of paying attention to every detail.”
It will be a somewhat similar situation to two years ago when Boston transfer Jake O’Brien and West Virginia transfer Dalton Pepper joined the team and Scootie Randall returned from a year off because of injury. Temple has plenty of players with experience, but it’s just not with the Owls.
While waiting for Coleman and Watson to be eligible to play, the Owls do have some veterans returning. Senior point guard Will Cummings will run the show with help from sophomore Josh Brown.
“My whole summer was just staying the gym, working on my shot a lot, my ball-handling and mindset of the game,” said Brown. “Everyone was just new to college basketball last year. Will played the year before but wasn’t really a focal point … Everyone had different roles.
“It was a learning experience, and the next three years should be great for me.”
They’ll also hope for more growth from the explosive DeCosey and more consistent play from junior shot-blocker Devontae Watson, while returning forwards Mark Williams and Jimmy McDonnell and adding freshman Obi Enechionyia to the front-court mix.
“(Enechionyia) will be one of the best freshmen in the country, I feel,” said Bond. “I’m looking forward to seeing him help us this year.”
In general, the Owls are looking forward to a new season and exciting possibilities after a season they can finally put in the rear-view mirror.
Temple men's basketball to open season
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