Temple's star guard came up with the loose ball near midcourt, but as he approached the lane he hadn't shaken off the defender at his shoulder. Had this been Guy Rodgers in the golden years of 1955-58, he might have flipped the ball behind his back to the trailer. Had it been Hal Lear, Rodgers' backcourt partner for a time, who averaged 32 points in the '56 NCAA tournament, he might have pulled up for a soft jumper. But this was senior Terence Stansbury, at 6'5" considerably taller than his illustrious predecessors, and he took off, long arms extended, and jammed it. Welcome to 1984.
Bill Cosby, Temple (1959-62, A.B. '77), university trustee and very funny fellow, remembers the wonderfulness of Rodgers' freewheeling play, which led the Owls to the NCAA Final Four in 1956 and '58. "That freedom, inventiveness and imagination, which reminded me of the Harlem Globetrotters, frightened those traditionalists who said, 'Two hands on everything and please don't throw that thing way across the court,' " says Cosby. " Rodgers helped expose that Philadelphia style."
Unfortunately for Temple and other urban schools in the Northeast, such exposure opened the way for a southerly and westerly migration of local talent. But no more. This year's Temple team, its nucleus drawn from within a 30-mile radius of Center City, may again attract attention come tournament time in March.
Though by no means an overpowering team—they have been outrebounded, on average, 36.2-34.9—the Owls were 14-2 after victories last week over Duquesne and West Virginia and were winging their way through the Atlantic-10 Conference. If Temple's 130,000 living alums have learned anything while waiting for the Owls' resurgence, it's to be cautious in their optimism. But with second-year coach John Chaney on the bench and Stansbury in the backcourt, their hopes might be justified.
Stansbury doesn't shoot like Lear or pass like Rodgers, but he can dominate a game. He is lean and long-limbed, with pipe-cleaner calves and legs that appear slightly knock-kneed, an unlikely construction considering Stansbury's remarkable vertical leaps. His measured best is 43 inches.
Marty Blake of the NBA Scouting Service rates Stansbury among the top four big guards who will be available in this year's NBA draft. The pros like not only his size, but also his quickness, open-court potential and durability, born of long days on the playgrounds of Wilmington, Del., a city at the outer limits of that 30-mile radius. For his junior and senior years of high school, Stansbury was bused 12 miles to the mostly white town of Newark, Del. (that's "new-ARK," please), with the result that Newark High suddenly became a state power in basketball. Early in his very first practice there, Stansbury took the ball down the left side and dunked. "Oh my God," said Newark coach Jim Doody, "look what we have." Temple had Stansbury two years later, and through Sunday he had missed just one game. Last season he sat out only seven minutes in 29 games, including overtime; in 16 games this season he had averaged 37 minutes and turned the ball over just 37 times.
Chaney calls him Iron Man, which as a nickname might not compare with those of Temple greats Bill (Pickles) Kennedy or Bill (The Owl Without a Vowel) Mlkvy. But it fits Stansbury. Last year he scored at a Lear-like clip: six 30-point games, including back-to-back 39- and 37-point performances in Temple's mad dash through the Atlantic 10 tournament, which ended with Temple losing to West Virginia in the finals. He finished with a 24.6-points-per-game average and will break Rodgers' career scoring record of 1,767 points if he averages 18.4 this year.
Stansbury's 1983-84 scoring has been down, to 17.9, but that hasn't been a surprise, what with 6'8" center Granger Hall back in the lineup after missing nearly all of last year with a knee injury, and with the arrival of sweet-shooting freshman Nate Blackwell, the best schoolboy player in Philadelphia last year.
The Owls' revival owes much to Chaney, 52, a Philly high school superstar of 1950-51 and onetime Globetrotter, who was hired to replace Don Casey after a careful search by new Temple president Peter Liacouras. Chaney, who won six conference titles and the 1978 Division II national championship in 10 years at nearby Cheyney (as in Chaney) State, brought to Temple a work ethic manifested in occasional 6 a.m. practices and double sessions, as well as a glowering, bellowing intolerance for weakness of character or commitment. "Once last year we got back to the campus from the Palestra about 11:30 or midnight, and we practiced at six the next morning," says Stansbury. Punishment for losing? "No, we won the game."
Temple's return to basketball prominence is part of a general revitalization plan conceived by Liacouras, 52, a man of vision in the bleak urban reality of North Philadelphia. He had banners strung across Broad Street—the city's main north-south thoroughfare, which splits the campus—and elsewhere to advertise the basketball team and to remind motorists just where Temple is located.