New-look Owls begin prepping for trip to Europe

New-look Owls begin prepping for trip to Europe
July 31, 2013, 5:15 pm
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Dalton Pepper is the only senior on Temple's roster heading into the 2013-14 season. (USA Today Images)

Where is everybody?

Khalif Wyatt? Gone, NBA Summer League with the Sixers.

T.J. DiLeo and Jake O'Brien? Gone, starting pro careers in Europe.

Scootie Randall and Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson? Not gone -- sort of. They're still at practice, watching their old teammates. But they're not on the floor. They're off to the side, over by the windows, laughing, not stretching.

Actually, only 11 guys are on the floor, and one of them is a walk-on.

Welcome to offseason workouts with 2013-14 Temple Owls.

Fran Dunphy's team went through the first of 10 NCAA-allowed offseason practices on Wednesday. While other schools are limited to two hours of practice a week, Dunphy is taking his guys on a 10-day trip to France and Italy from Aug. 13-24, meaning they get to run 10 full practices other programs don't. And they're going to need them.

Dunphy now finds himself presiding over what's very likely his most inexperienced team in the eight seasons he's been at Temple. It's a team that lost five seniors from last year's team and its four biggest contributors.

"Well, that's one of the reasons why you [take this kind of trip]," Dunphy said Wednesday. "This is a critical year for us. We have a lot of inexperienced guys, who haven't had that much of a chance to play college basketball.

"We're going to need everybody."

There's now just one senior -- Dalton Pepper -- three juniors -- Anthony Lee, Will Cummings, bench reserve Jimmy McDonnell -- three sophomores -- Quenton DeCosey, Dan Dingle, Devontae Watson (two of whom barely played last year) -- three freshman -- Josh Brown, Kyle Green, Mark Williams -- and the aforementioned walk-on -- junior Nick Pendergast. And that's it.

Temple did pick up junior-transfer and Plymouth Whitemarsh product Jaylen Bond from Texas this offseason, but he'll be sitting out the season and isn't allowed to play in Europe. Thus, he's not allowed to participate in these pre-Europe practices either.

The Owls could have gotten a hold of former UMass guard and Olney High alum Jesse Morgan, but Morgan, who tore his ACL last January and was thrown out of UMass in April, had his petition to play this season denied on Tuesday (see story).

So Temple has 11 guys -- and probably more like nine really, three of whom have never played a second of college basketball -- as it heads into a new conference and a schedule that features at least eight games against NCAA tournament teams from last season, including two dates with defending-national champion Louisville.

Dunphy, meanwhile, much as he did last March, has been openly discussing the prospect of missing the tournament altogether for the first time since 2007.

"The first thing that coach had us look at was a bracket for next year's March Madness -- and we weren't on it," a noticeably larger Anthony Lee said. "We definitely have a lot to prove.

But long before they start worrying about records, RPI and SOS, before they even get to fall practices, they'll have managed to play four games as a team.

"They're four pro teams [we're playing against]," Dunphy said. "Some will be better than others, better than others, more prepared than others, but it'll be a great test for us."

This season should also be something of a test for him. Dunphy's taken his team to the NCAA tournament the last six seasons in a row, but his team'\s have always had strong senior leadership. You knew where their points were going to come from and who was capable of taking over games when needed.

This year, that's not so clear.

"It's going to be a group effort," Dunphy said. "Nobody's got a better job than me. To try to put teams together is always the most fun. It's fun when you don't what you're going to get. For example, this year, there's a lot of unknowns.

"So am I excited? Yeah."

And, you know, basketball aside, there's getting the chance to spend 10 days in Europe. There are worse places to bond.

"I have the opportunity two other times to take team, at Penn actually, to Italy and Spain," Dunphy said. "I don't know if they'll appreciate today as much as they will five years from now. I think the opportunity to get together as a basketball group is important, but it's equally as important for the educational and cultural piece of learning a new language for a few weeks and a new culture.

"I'm sure it'll be a great trip for us in many, many ways."

Especially if it's the precursor to another trip to the NCAAs. If that happens, with this young group, it might prove Dunphy's best work yet.

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