For those of you starved for off-season basketball updates, you're in luck. Local product Dalton Pepper is coming home. The 6'5 guard and Pennsbury High School graduate will be leaving West Virginia University to play for coach Fran Dunphy and the Temple Owls.
Pepper completed two seasons for the Mountaineers, but failed to assume a role within coach Bob Huggins' rotation that satisfied his own expectations. Rumors of his departure from Morgantown have been of the "on-again, off-again" variety for some time now, and the move was largely expected. Though there were some recent indications from Pepper himself that he would remain at WVU for his junior season, the request to transfer comes on the heels of teammate Kevin Jones' own decision to remove his name from the NBA draft and return to school. Common speculation had Pepper as one of the lead candidates to replace Jones in the starting lineup, an option obviously no longer in play. Per some late night tweeting from TheHoopsReport's Ryan Feldman, Dalton
has confirmed the move, citing not Jones' return, but his own father's health as a
Pepper, per intraconference transfer regulations, will be required to sit out the same length of time. As such, Temple fans won't be seeing him in action for another eighteen months. In the meantime, he will be allowed to practice with the team and learn coach Dunphy's particular brand of basketball. Once available, Pepper retains two years of collegiate eligibility.
Coming out of high school, Dalton was vigorously recruited by Temple and, reportedly, very close to enrolling. Coming from the same Pennsbury program as Temple's all-time leading rebounder Lavoy Allen, it seemed reasonable that Pepper would follow suit in becoming an Owl. Now, two years later, Fran Dunphy will finally get a crack at one of the many near-recruits he has been so close to locking down in years past.
As for what one can reasonably expect once Dalton hits the floor, his averages at West Virginia do little to shed light. He averaged just 3.9 points and 1.6 rebounds in 12.4 minutes his sophomore season—not exactly a large sample size. The common reaction from the pessimists would be to argue that, well, "the kid just isn't good enough to play." On the contrary, supporters will retort that Pepper has performed admirably when given the chance, and simply suffered from a lack of opportunity in a difficult conference with deep rosters. Time will obviously tell which of these parties has the story right, though coach Dunphy seems to have a pretty good handle on picking out the right guys for his program. In this case, it is a player Fran liked from the start and apparently still likes enough to welcome into the fold.
Though there are plenty of roster spots still open for the Fall of 2012, Pepper figures to sure up at least some of the void left by the Spring 2012 graduation, when four of Temple's starting five will finish their college careers. With all the starting guards on the way out after next season, Pepper will fit in alongside Khalif Wyatt and in-coming freshman Will Cummings as the new leaders of the Owls' back court.
Any Pennbury grads out there who can offer some added insight into Dalton's game? Always cool to keep the local kids close to home. Plus, Temple fans receive yet another opportunity to work a variety of name-related puns. The "Pepp Squad"—coming Fall 2012.
UPDATE: The Inquirer's Keith Pompey is now reporting that the multitude of "Pepper to Temple" stories, including our own, may have jumped the gun. In this case, we have some conflicting sources.
While the Bucks County Courier Times and TheHoopsReport.com had reported that Pepper's transfer was a done deal, Pompey is now writing:
“Once Dalton officially asks for and RECIEVES (sic) his release from WVU, I will call you and comment,” Sciolla wrote. “Until then, it is just internet chatter.
“I hope that it happens soon.”
Ryan Feldman, who runs TheHoopsReport and penned CSNPhilly's article on the situation last evening, has since updated his initial report, clarifying:
Over on the message boards at OwlScoop.com, site editor and senior writer John Di Carlo has posted that Pepper has indeed received his release. But, since Temple has yet to lock down any official paperwork, neither the administration nor coach Dunphy can comment at this time. Di Carlo is also reporting that Fran is currently enjoying Naples, Florida for Atlantic 10 conference meetings, and that confirmation on the transfer may be consequently slowed.
Given the nature of the how this story has evolved over the last 12-24 hours, it remains likely that Pepper will soon be a member of the Cherry and White. Still, Pompey's report and Feldman's update are worthy of note. Stay tuned for more should the story continue to unfold.