Daniel Dingle (above) is one of two seniors who graduated from Temple after the 2016-17 season. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
2017-18 Temple Owls Primer
Coach: Fran Dunphy, 12th season (230-136, .628)
Last Year: 16-16 overall, 7-11 American Athletic Conference; lost in AAC
Coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2016, Temple had a few major hurdles to overcome last season. In addition to graduating a group of three seniors crucial to the Owls’ success that year (Quenton DeCosey, Devin Coleman and Jaylen Bond), Dunphy then had to deal with his starting point guard, senior Josh Brown, tearing his Achilles in the offseason. Despite all that, Temple started the season off 6-2 with wins over ranked teams in Florida State and West Virginia -- and even got Brown back on the court for a few games as he attempted to make an early comeback -- but the shortened, inexperienced rotation could only keep that level of play together for so long. The Owls began AAC play 1-6 and though they picked up some better wins to close out the year, they weren’t able to stay consistent enough to present a postseason threat.
Key Losses: F Daniel Dingle (12.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.5 apg), PF Mark Williams (6.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg)
Moving on from Temple’s roster last year are a pair of forwards who were both four-year contributors, even though neither ever needed to be stars. Williams was the consummate role player for his four seasons; the 6-8 forward from Ohio actually played his most minutes as a freshman (18.8/game) but averaged 14.3 mpg for his career, scoring 540 points (4.4/game) and grabbing 342 rebounds (2.8/game) along the way. Dingle, a skilled 6-7 wing forward out of the Bronx, had trouble staying healthy early in his college career but showed what he was capable of as a senior, filling the stat sheet on a nightly basis. Finished his career with 757 points (6.3/game) and 360 rebounds (3.0/game).
New Faces: PF Justyn Hamilton (Fr./Independence, N.C.), F J.P. Moorman II (Fr./Grennsboro Day, N.C.), SF De’vondre ‘Dre’ Perry (Fr./Baltimore Poly, Md.), SG Nate Pierre-Louis (Fr./Roselle Catholic, N.J.)
There’s a lot to like about this four-man freshman class, and though they might not need to be pressed into immediate starting action like several of last year’s freshmen were, there’s a good chance at least a couple will be contributing more than spare minutes this season. Perhaps the most college-ready physically is Perry, a 6-6 wing with powerful athleticism and good ball skills similar to the graduated Dingle, who can also play the ‘3’ or the ‘4’. Pierre-Louis, a 6-4 combo guard, can slot into the ‘1,’ ‘2’ or ‘3’ in Temple’s offensive attack, and has done a good job of defending and rebounding in early practices. Moorman is similar to Perry, also around a 6-6 wing forward, but his outside shot isn’t quite as strong; he’s a better interior player to Perry, however, and could earn a few minutes for his rebounding. Hamilton is a slender 6-10 post player who competes well on the glass and around the rim, but needs to bulk up and continue adjusting to the speed of the Division I game to get into the big man rotation.
Obi Enechionyia (above) gives the Owls a versatile threat, at 6-10 with strong 3-point and shot-blocking abilities. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Starting Frontcourt: F Obi Enechionyia (13.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg), C Damion Moore (3.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg)
Last year, it looked like Enechionyia was ready to become one of the top players not just in the American Athletic Conference but around the country. The 6-foot-9 face-up forward out of St. James School (Md.) seemingly couldn’t do anything wrong over the Owls’ first seven games, averaging 21 points and 8.4 rebounds while hitting an absurd 54.5 percent of his 3-point attempts; his play was a major reason the Owls knocked off two ranked teams in their first seven games. The rest of the season was an uneven one for Enechionyia, who averaged 10.9 ppg and 5.0 rpg while making just 33.8 percent of his triples over the last 25 games. Now in his senior year, he’s trying to maintain something close to those early numbers for a much longer stretch of time.
The center spot is up for grabs between Moore, a sophomore, and junior big man Ernest Aflakpui. Ultimately it’s about production, as the Owls have the ability to go small-ball with Enechionyia at the ‘5’ if neither of the other two can consistently rebound and defend. A 6-11 center out of Mississippi, Moore had quite a freshman year: he didn’t play in seven of Temple’s first nine games, started one, came off the bench in 10 of the next 15 (and didn’t play in the others) -- then started six of the final seven. He’s got the better defensive potential of the two big men, and shooting 11-of-13 on his free throws is an added bonus.
Starting Backcourt: G Shizz Alston Jr. (13.9 ppg, 4.1 apg, 3.6 rpg), PG Josh Brown (2015-16 stats: 8.3 ppg, 4.9 apg, 4.8 rpg), G Quinton Rose (9.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg)
This has the potential to be an extremely strong unit, one of the better backcourts in the entire American Athletic Conference. All three of the above guards have the ability to handle the ball and run point, though Alston and Rose are both used to playing on the wing as well. Brown enjoyed a terrific junior season back in 2015-16, when the 6-3 guard out of St. Anthony’s (N.J.) was 10th in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.5), starting all 33 games at point for an NCAA Tournament squad. After tearing his Achilles last offseason, undergoing surgery, Brown attempted to return last year, playing five games before electing to take a redshirt and return fully healthy this year. If he’s back to the level he was two years ago -- Brown is also a terrific defender and leader -- he makes this Owls squad much more dangerous.
Filling in at point last year in Brown’s absence was Alston, the now-junior out of The Haverford School, and after a quiet freshman season, Alston proved himself as a high-level college guard last year. Earning Big 5 First Team and Most Improved honors, Alston led the AAC in free-throw percentage (.868) and was second in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.7:1), putting up decent two-point (.473) and 3-point (.345) shooting percentages considering the amount he had to create for himself.
The guard who could really blow up this year on the Temple roster is Rose, who’s coming off a big summer in terms of his confidence. The 6-5 wing guard out of central New York was a finalist for the USA Basketball U-19 squad that competed in the FIBA championships in July, and was said to be one of the most impressive prospects at the camp. His overall freshman numbers were solid, but he flashed some serious ability, like in dropping 26 points at Madison Square Garden in the win over Florida State. He also grabbed five-or-more rebounds 15 times, and dished out three-or-more assists a dozen times; by the end of his four years on North Broad, he’ll flirt with a few triple-doubles.
Alani Moore II (above) is one of a few bench options with a good deal of experience. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Bench: F/C Ernest Aflakpui (4.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg), PF Justyn Hamilton (Fr./Independence, N.C.), G Alani Moore II (6.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg), F J.P. Moorman II (Fr./Greensboro Day, N.C.), SF De’vondre ‘Dre’ Perry (N/A), SG Nate Pierre-Louis (N/A)
Dunphy certainly has at his disposal a good collection of talent, with a variety of abilities and experience levels, up and down the bench. Likely his first two into the game will be the pair with the most experience: Aflakpui, a 6-9 junior forward out of Archbishop Carroll who’s played in 49 games with 27 starts in his first two seasons; and Moore, a 5-10 sophomore guard out of Friendship Collegiate (D.C.) who hit 41 percent of his 3-point attempts a year ago. Between the two of them, they give Temple another ball-handling option who can hit open shots, as well as a defensive-minded big man who puts in good effort on the glass. The four freshmen all have a chance to have an impact, but it would seem that Perry and Pierre-Louis have the best chance to see quality action; Moorman has work to do on his conditioning and Hamilton on his physicality and defensive awareness before they’re ready to play major collegiate minutes. But this is a roster that could easily go 10-deep, with another one or two deep reserves as well.
Three Keys to Success
1. Backcourt equilibrium. With Brown back to (almost) full health, the Owls have no fewer than four guards who came up as primary ball-handlers for their respective high school programs in him, Moore, Alston and Rose. But Brown is the steadiest (and most experienced) on-ball presence, and though he’s shown the ability as a catch-and-shoot threat in Temple’s multi-guard offense in the past, it’s clear that the Owls’ system will be run mainly through its fifth-year senior. They’ll have to find a rotation and flow that gets everybody touches, while also developing an understanding there will likely be slightly fewer minutes and shots for all.
2. Obi stays steady. Every team in the American Athletic Conference has guards; nobody in the mid-to-high-major realm is struggling to find four or five perimeter players who can dribble, pass and shoot. But not everybody has a 6-10 forward who has the potential to shoot 40-plus percent from 3-point range, as well as lead the team in scoring, rebounding and blocks. Simply put, an Obi Enechionyia playing at the top of his game makes Temple a potential conference champ; that was proof enough during the early portion of last year, when they upset two Top 25 opponents on back-to-back nights as Enechionyia chipped in 38 points, hit seven of his 10 3s, grabbed 20 rebounds and picked up 11 blocks. He doesn’t need to hit 54 percent of his 3s for a whole year, but he can’t have the kind of slump that he had in the middle of last season, when he averaged 9.4 ppg and hit 27 percent from 3 between Dec. 12 and Jan. 25.
3. Success inside the arc. The Owls were fine from beyond the arc last year at 35.6 percent, placing them right in the middle of the pack in Division I. But they were only able to convert on 47 percent of their 2-point attempts, which was 271st in the country, per KenPom. They also had 11.4 percent of their shots blocked, which was one of the worst marks in the country (321st), and they only got to the foul line once for every four shots taken, which was 344th in D-I. And it was a team-wide problem: aside from Aflakpui (56.4 percent), nobody on Temple made more than half of their two-point attempts. They’re made to be stronger from the perimeter than they are inside, but that efficiency number from close in has to improve.
Click here for an in-depth look at the Owls' 2017-18 schedule
“I think they’ll be the most improved and one of the top stories in the city this year, for the reason that I think that you will see Temple get back to their identity, which is tough, defensive basketball. I think their roster has great depth, the young kids that are coming in fit the mold that they want to get back to on defense.”
“We recruited Shizz, so I’ve always been a fan. His family’s great, and pedigree of Temple, basketball in his family. He’s got to get better on the defensive end as well, but he had a pretty good year offensively. Enechionyia, he started off on fire and there was talks of NBA and all that stuff. ...I thought their recruiting was very good. I don’t know enough about the type of kids or anything like that, I’m a fan of Shizz Alston so Coach Dunphy has a way of coaching guys up and he has a way of bouncing back.”
“I think the one thing that Temple has this year, is, they have three guys on their team who could be really, really, really good. Three guys that are really looking to take off in terms of solidifying themselves as big-time players in Temple’s program. And that’s Obi, Shawn Alston and Quinton Rose. I have a great deal of respect for Dunph. He does a great job of getting the most out of his team and this year Dunph has a combination of three guys, in those three dudes, that can really score the ball. With the addition of Josh Brown, you have a senior, veteran, leader, tough, hard-nosed winner. Temple’s gonna be really good.”
A non-conference slate littered with potential resume-building wins turns out to be a boon for Temple, whose multi-faceted attack proves near impossible to defend; up front, the combination of Aflakpui and Moore combine to give them 40 quality minutes at the '5' night after night. A championship in the Charleston Classic kicks off a 6-0 start to the season, leading up to a crucial three-game stretch of Wisconsin, St. Joe's and Villanova; the Owls emerge from it no worse than 8-1, and go into AAC play with double-digit wins. In league play, they pick up a big victory over preseason league favorite Cincinnati on Jan. 4 and go on to a top-four finish in league play, including a home win over Wichita State in February to put together an at-large worthy resume. Once in the tournament, the Owls win two games to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2001.
The return of Brown proves too be too many guards in the rotation, and the ball starts sticking too often as players try to rush production in fewer minutes. A tough non-conference schedule turns out to be too difficult: Charleston doesn't go well with no warm-up games, then home losses to Wisconsin, St. Joe's and Villanova in the span of a week send the Owls stumbling into AAC play with a record no better than 5-6, and they can never seem to find their footing. A deeper conference takes its toll on Temple, who can't beat any of the top four of Cinci, Wichita State, UCF or UConn and end the season in the bottom-middle of the pack, with not so much as a CBI bid as consolation for an AAC quarterfinals loss.