Temple Men's Hoops Preview: The Year Without Christmas

Temple Men's Hoops Preview: The Year Without Christmas

With the upcoming NCAA season upon us, we're happy to introduce some in-depth coverage of at least one of the local teams. Nick Menta, a junior at Temple who has been watching the Owls play on North Broad since he was 10 years old, will be discussing the Owls here and there throughout the season, starting with this preview of what we can expect from this year's team, which is in a major transition period as you'll read below. 

If you'd like to contribute posts on one of the other local teams, contact me or Enrico.  

It doesn’t seem all that long ago that Dionte Christmas was raining down threes on then-#8 Tennessee and projected to be a late first round steal in the 2009 NBA Draft. Unfortunately for both Christmas and the 2009-2010 Temple Owls, a lot has changed. Ignoring for a moment Dionte’s “erratic driving” and the obvious uncertainties about the former Temple standout’s future, his alma mater enters this season with questions of their own.  

Coming off their second A-10 Championship in as many years, the Owls, tied for 5th with Duquesne in the A-10 preseason rankings, are without a clear primary scorer for the first time since head coach Fran Dunphy took over the program in 2006. Led in the past by athletic swingmen like Christmas and his old counterpart Mark Tyndale, this year’s team will need a revamped offense focused more on the execution of teamwork than the takeover of individual talent if they hope to return to the NCAA tournament for the third year in a row. The graduation of key senior starters like Christmas, center Sergio Olmos and guard Semaj Inge leave the Owls with the challenge of replacing valuable minutes, scoring and experience. That lost 34.7 points per game might not come so easy this year without Semaj’s speed, Sergio’s size and, let’s be honest for a second, Dionte’s timely three-parties.   

While it is certainly easy to lament the loss of Christmas, Olmos and Inge, there is also, fortunately, quite a lot to look forward to this season. 


 originally uploaded by abmillerphotography.

Sophomore point guard Juan Fernandez drew immediate comparisons to former Temple guard and fellow Argentine Pepe Sanchez upon his arrival on campus late last December, and made tremendous strides as the season progressed. Though occasionally a bit loose with the ball, Fernandez has unbelievable vision in traffic and such forceful passing that it often took his teammates, especially the unprepared bigs underneath, by surprise.  With a year under his belt and the offseason to work with both last year’s crew as well as the new additions, Pepe-with-a-jumper’s play should prove increasingly dynamic as he gains more confidence.  His continued development figures to weigh heavily on the Owls' success this season.   

At the 4, Craig Williams played (extremely) limited minutes in last year’s out of conference schedule. But, after a 22-minute, 16-point performance against Kent State in early January, Williams cemented his place as important role player for the Owls.  At 6’9, it can be surprising to see Williams spend so much time behind the three point line; but, after finishing the season with 40.4% average from the beyond the arc, he’ll remain a viable threat from the outside.   Point guard Kalif Wyatt and forward Ralir Jefferson are also expected to contribute off the bench in their freshman seasons, as are the returning Luis Guzman, Rafael DeLeon, Ramon Moore, Michael Eric and T.J. DiLeo.   

The true keys to this team’s success, however, are undoubtedly Ryan Brooks and Lavoy Allen. Largely considered complimentary pieces to the bigger part of the Temple puzzle thus far in their collegiate careers, Brooks and Allen now figure to be the team’s leaders both on and off the court.  Averaging 10.7 PPG last season, Brooks remains the team’s best perimeter player at both ends of the floor.  Knocking down 41.7% from 3 and playing Tenacious D at the opposite end, the 6’4 senior is the heart and soul of this year’s squad.  Likewise, Allen, recently named to the A-10 All-Conference team, will be expected to continue the play that led the lineup in both field-goal percentage and rebounding last season.  

Ultimately, as Brooks and Allen go, so go this year’s Temple Owls.   

“It’s going to be tough [without last year’s seniors], but I think we’re up to the challenge,” said Allen when asked about his and Brooks’ expanding roles. “It might take us a little while to find our identity as a team, but we’re working hard and expect another successful season.”   

L.A. and the Owls will take their first step toward realizing that identity this Saturday on the road against Delaware. Tip-off is scheduled for 12 pm. Three days later, Temple squares off against AP #20 Georgetown at 4 o’clock on ESPN.   

10 other games to look forward this season:   

11/21/09    Siena (Home Opener) 
12/05/09    Penn State
12/13/09    Villanova
01/02/10    #1 Kansas
01/13/10    @ UPenn
01/20/10    Xavier
01/30/10    LaSalle
02/06/10    @ Richmond
02/20/10    @ St. Joseph’s
02/24/10    Dayton   

First St. Joe’s game is January 6th at The Apollo. Start Tailgating. 

Thanks Nick!

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Being immersed in the team is important for Nerlens Noel, and so is continuing his rehab. 

While the Sixers are on the road for three days to play the Grizzlies and Pelicans, Noel will remain in Philadelphia to work out at the training complex in Camden, New Jersey. The team is not scheduled to practice in between games, so staying back allows Noel another day to get on the court.

“[I want him to] just start playing more and have a ball in his hands, get hit, physical, feel people, play one-on-one,” head coach Brett Brown said.

Noel has yet to play this season because of elective arthroscopic left knee surgery in October. He rejoined the Sixers after completing the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Alabama. There still is no timetable for his return. 

Brown has said there is a “classroom” element to Noel’s return. He has to learn a roster with new players and schemes. 

The on-the-court side of it is a reacclimation to the intensity of the league. Regardless of how many games Noel already has played in the NBA, there is an adjustment period getting back into the grind of the competition. Brown believes the time in the gym this week will help Noel prepare for the level of intensity he will face in his return. 

“It’s such fool’s gold to think somebody’s going to jump back into NBA basketball after you haven’t played for so long. I don’t care how athletic he is,” Brown said. “It’s a man’s world, this league, and there’s a physicality and there’s a real-time reaction you have to have to play in the game. You can’t make that up in practice, you can’t make that up playing one-on-one, but you can better position him instead of just going out to get shots. I want him to feel a body, get hit, hit back, play one-on-one, those types of things.”

Noel had been assigned to the Sixers’ Development League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers, to get in practice time when the Sixers had a game. The Sixers may forego another assignment and keep Noel at their facility as the Sevens also have two games in the next three days. 

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

BOX SCORE

Joel Embiid has been making the NBA look easy. Rookie of the Month honors, five double-doubles in 13 games, seven performances of 20 points or more … all having missed the last two years rehabbing from foot injuries.

Embiid, though, still is a player learning the league. Night’s like Monday’s lackluster showing are going to happen, even if it seemed unexpected against the struggling Denver Nuggets. 

“We’ve been used to seeing Jo have superhuman nights,” Brett Brown said after the Sixers’ 106-98 loss (see Instant Replay). “I thought Joel was down tonight.” 

Embiid tallied a total 16 points (5 for 15 from the field, 1 for 3 from three, 5 for 6 from the line) with four rebounds, one assist, a career-high five blocks, three turnovers and three fouls in 25:32. 

He had a quiet first half with six points (2 for 5 from the field) and one rebound in 9:21. The biggest struggle came in the third quarter. Embiid scored a single point off a free throw and shot 0 for 6 from the floor. By the end of three, he was shooting 18.2 percent. 

The big man said he needed to be better at passing out of the double team. He committed two turnovers in the third. 

“I wasn’t getting to my spot and I wasn’t getting what I’m used to getting,” Embiid said of the first three quarters. “I’m going to go back and watch the tape and see what I did wrong.” 

Embiid bounced back for another Embiid-like offensive effort in the fourth. He dropped nine points off an efficient 3 for 4 shooting in 7:31. Still, it wasn’t enough. 

“I made a couple shots,” Embiid said. “It didn’t help us win, so I don’t think it matters.”

Brown noticed Embiid rushing his game. He also thought Embiid’s balance was off, something the big man has been dealing with all season as he continues to find his legs. 

Embiid will not play in Tuesday's game against the Grizzlies. It is part of his workload management in which he does not play both games of a back-to-back. Expect him to hone in on game film until his next matchup, and get back on the roller coaster that can be a first year in the NBA. 

“It's just part of a young man's growth,” Brown said. “It just happens. I don't think we need to read too deeply into it. I think, in many ways, to expect from time to time not as good of a performance as we have been used to is fair enough.”