Temple Postcard (cont.)
A great Dunphy line, while encouraging Eric to finish stronger after receiving a slick feed from a driving Fernandez: "Mike, when Juan makes a pass like that and you don't finish, it's like reaching in his chest and taking his heart out."
When the Owls are assigned push-ups and sit-ups in practice, Dunphy often joins them, and this is a source of amusement to his players. "He's going to hurt his back like that," I heard one of them say, laughing, as he watched Dunphy gingerly do a set of 15 push-ups, with his whistle tapping against the floor.
"They all bust my [butt] about it," Dunphy said. "They say I don't go down far enough."
Senior forward Craig Williams was one of the bystanders in practice this week, alternating between riding a stationary bike and using a bone growth stimulator on the fifth metatarsal of his right foot, which he fractured while playing in St. Croix (his home) this offseason. The fracture didn't get diagnosed until he returned to Temple -- Williams initially thought he just had a sore foot -- so he didn't have surgery until September, and said he'll likely be sidelined until December.
Heart and soul: Moore. The Owls are in a weird place, in that they have no clear, alpha-dog leader, and their two most prominent players -- Fernandez and Allen -- aren't, as Dunphy would put it, "vociferous." Dunphy would like Moore to grow into the heart and soul role, and Moore appears ready to do it in his fourth year with the program. "He's a Philly guy, and everyone on this team likes him and respects him," Dunphy said. "Plus I think he understands what being a leader is about."
Most improved: Sophomore combo guard T.J. DiLeo. He was essentially a non-factor as a redshirt freshman last season, buried on the bench behind Fernandez, Moore and Guzman, averaging 1.1 points in 6.4 minutes per game. Playing for Germany's entry in the European U20 championship this summer, though, DiLeo averaged 10.7 points in 27.3 minutes, scoring 20 against both the Czech Republic and Netherlands. He said the confidence gained from playing extended minutes -- "because I haven't done that for two years, since high school" -- should help him break through in '10-11. He's earned his way into a backup point guard role, capably running the offense in practice while also serving as a decent long-range threat.
Glue guy: Allen. He's about as high-profile as Glue Guys get, in that he was named the A-10's preseason Player of the Year. And Temple would like its 6-9 power forward to be far more aggressive on the offensive end, after averaging 11.5 points and 10.7 rebounds as a junior. ("There's no way Lavoy shouldn't average 20 and 10 every game this year," Moore said.) But at heart, he's a defensive anchor, and when he does get the ball on offense, he thinks like a playmaker, posting assist-to-turnover ratios of 1.62 and 1.57 the past two seasons. It's not in his personality to take over games -- "I've always been a laid-back guy," he said -- but he still manages to be immensely valuable.
X-factor No. 1: 6-6 junior guard Scootie Randall, who appears to be the favorite to start in Brooks' vacated "3" position. Given the value Brooks had as a lockdown defender, it's imperative, Dunphy said, "that Scootie be a great defensive player, not a good one, and he's gotta make open shots, too." Randall will often be placed in the corner in the Owls' offense, waiting there to receive kick-outs from Moore or Fernandez when defenses collapse on their drives, or from Allen when he's doubled in the post. Randall was a 41.9 percent three-point shooter (13-for-31) in limited action last season; if he can shoot that well in extended minutes, he'll be a major asset to a team that's in need of perimeter offense.
X-factor No. 2: Watch out for Khalif Wyatt, a 6-4 shooting guard who only played 1.9 minutes per game and attempted four threes as a freshman last season. He might be the best pure shooter on the team (he hit 6-of-12 threes in scrimmage-like conditions in the practice I saw) and could be used off the bench to kick-start the offense on occasion, or even spot-start in place of Randall. The only thing holding Wyatt back, it seems, is that he doesn't consistently play D to Dunphy's exacting standards.
Bottom line: The Owls should be the class of the A-10 for the second straight season. They have a strong enough defensive foundation to avoid slipping too much from a 29-win season in '09-10. To be considered a real threat in the NCAA tournament, though, they'll need to show offensive improvement. Moore needs to be a better all-around scorer; Fernandez needs to continue to get good three-point looks while running the offense; and Allen needs to force himself to be more of a bull in the paint. If those things happen, Dunphy might just have the first Sweet 16 team of his career.
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