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Dillon Battie's family connection leads him to Temple

11/06/2023, 11:00am EST
By Josh Verlin

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

All his life, Dillon Battie had been hearing about Temple basketball.

The son of Derrick Battie, who played for the Owls from 1992-96, Dillon grew up regaled by stories of John Chaney and his infamous 6 AM practices, of his dad’s success on the hardwood, of all the legends who wore Cherry & White over the years. 

“I was always taught it was a tough program, a good program, and was accustomed to winning,” Dillon Battie said. “It was given to me at a high respect level, that’s what I heard growing up.”

So when new Temple head coach Adam Fisher started pursuing the 6-foot-8 senior at Lancaster (Tex.) High School, Battie was intrigued. Like his father, he had offers from schools in the Big 12 and SEC, the likes of Illinois, SMU, Oklahoma and Virginia Tech (among others) all offering this spring and summer. 

But those stories about Temple permeated through. Battie and his family visited Temple in late September, and last week he announced that he was committing to play for Fisher next fall. He was the first member of the Owls’ 2024 recruiting class; St. Elizabeth’s (Del.) wing Aidan Tobiason committed a couple days later. 

“I love the school, I love the campus, I love the city,” he said. “I love the people, the players, everything there was just all love.”

Fisher’s pitch to the four-star prospect was simple: come in and be a big part from the get-go, help get the program back on track. 

“He kept it straightforward,” Battie said. “He was like, ‘we really could use you, we appreciate your game, that’s big for us, and yeah we need you to dominate, come in and dominate.’ So with that being said, that’s what we decided to work on.”

Battie’s commitment is a major one for Fisher, no doubt about that, a sign that the former Miami (Fl.) and Penn State assistant is able to put his recruiting chops to work as a head coach. 

The Temple men’s program hasn’t been in the NCAA Tournament since 2019, only been twice in the last decade. That’s the worst stretch for the program since the late 1970s and early 1980s, before Chaney took over; the Owls went dancing 23 times between 1983 and 2013. 

Fisher took over after Aaron McKie was unable to jump-start his alma mater, having to totally rebuild the roster after most of a rotation that went 16-16 (10-8 AAC) last year graduated or transferred. He brought in a healthy group of transfers this offseason, including a few former high-major recruits in Quante Berry (Providence) and Jordan Riley (Georgetown). It remains to be seen how the on-court product looks, with the season underway Monday night.

“I feel like they’re only one or two players away from being a dominant tournament team, [and] I feel that my commitment really just boosts that,” Battie said. “I was like, I think if I go there, we have a chance to do something.”

Derrick Battie (center) with sons Dawson (L) and Dillon (R). (Photo courtesy Battie family)

If so, he’ll be following right in his father’s footsteps.

Derrick Battie was born and raised in the Oak Cliff neighborhood in Dallas, starring at South Oak Cliff High School in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He was drawn to Philadelphia by Chaney, the Hall of Fame coach known for his toughness, his attention to detail, and his love for his players. He takes pride in being one of a small handful to start as a true freshman for Chaney, finishing his Temple career averaging 6.8 ppg and 6.9 rpg in 123 games, helping the team to an Elite 8 run in his freshman year.

His return to Temple on Dillon’s visit was an eye-opening experience.

“He was like ‘we didn’t have none of this when I was there,’” the younger Battie said, “saying how much it’s been built up over the years. I was extremely excited to be there.”

“Coach Chaney was very clear with us as basketball players that Temple basketball was the lifeline of Temple University, in addition to the great education and great people, that was his opinion, because it was the unique thing that brought everybody together,” Derrick said. “After seeing what they’ve done with the rebuild, I told Dillon that basketball brought that rebuild.”

Derrick Battie swears he didn’t influence his son’s decision, let him make his college choice by himself. But the unintentional influence was there all along — Temple jerseys and awards on the walls of his Dallas house, the Chaney culture reverberating through the way his father raised him and his brothers. (His younger brother, Dawson Battie, is a 6-7 high school freshman at St. Mark’s in Dallas.)

Chaney’s books are on his counter, Derrick said, and his most recent homework assignment was to read Winning is an Attitude, written by Steve Wartenberg about the Owls’ legend. To help inspire his son, Derrick offered Dillon $10 for every chapter he reads. 

“It’s about 30 chapters in this book, so you can get it as fast as you want to, or as slow as you want to,” he said with a laugh, “but I thought he needed a little history.”

If the last name sounds familiar, that’s because Derrick’s brother, Tony Battie, played for the Sixers from 2010-12, the 6-foot-11 Texas Tech alum’s last stop on a 14-year NBA career. Derrick Battie said Philadelphia was a second home to the Battie family; he became a “true, diehard” Eagles fan when he was in college. Dillon said he’s not a Cowboys fan, open to cheering on the Birds as well.

Dillon grew up playing soccer, a sport he was introduced to by his mother, Yanika Daniels, who herself was a standout hoops player in high school and college. But by the end of his middle school years, his height already pushing six feet tall, he changed tacks. He’d always played basketball for fun, his dad taking him to parks in South Oak Lane to introduce him to the game, he was ready to take it seriously.

“I just started growing, and I was like, you know what, I think this is what I want to do,” he said. “Started practicing with that basketball, got to work, and I’ve come a long way.”

Dillon Battie is now 6-8 and 210 pounds, an athletic wing with a 40-inch vertical and ability to stretch the floor. Right now his game is best described as a combo forward, able to take bigger players out to the perimeter and get by them or take wings onto the blocks, where he can post up and finish around the rim. 

“I think my biggest attribute is my athleticism,” he said. “With a 40-inch vertical I really stay above the rim.

“If you swing it to me, I’m going to shoot it, going to knock it down, or I’m going to go straight downhill and put it on somebody’s head,” he added.

With his height, athleticism and skill set, Battie wants to eventually take his game to the highest level, a contract in the National Basketball Association the ultimate goal of his hoops journey. Temple hasn’t had an NBA draft pick since Lavoy Allen went in the 2nd round in 2011, hasn’t had someone play double-digit years in the Association since his father’s teammates, McKie and Eddie Jones, both 1994 draftees who played 14 seasons.

But he’s comforted by the stories of superstars Damian Lillard (Weber State), Steph Curry (Davidson), and all the others who went to a non-Power 5 program and still found their way to the NBA. 

“Of course the goal is to get to the league,” Battie said. “A lot of people asked, if my goal is to get to the league, why would you go (to Temple)? My thing is the stories — people didn’t go to ginormous schools, but the right player will make it out of there.”

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