Temple enters season with experience, youth, and NCAA hopes

OWLS06-a
Temple’s #15, Nate Pierre Louis, #15, goes up f a dunk during practice dirlls during Temple media day on Thursday October 5, 2017. MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer

After earning an NCAA tournament bid in 2016, Temple slipped last season to 16-16, losing in the first round of the American Athletic Conference tournament to East Carolina.

Now the Owls enter a season with optimism, and returning to the tournament is the main goal.

Making the goal more difficult to achieve is that Wichita State, a likely preseason Top 10 team, is moving into the AAC. Temple will play the Shockers twice this year.

Last year, just Cincinnati and SMU received NCAA tournament bids from the AAC, while Wichita State, which competed in the Missouri Valley Conference, earned a sixth straight NCAA berth.

Other teams such as Houston, Central Florida, and Connecticut, just to name a few, are potential NCAA teams  in what is expected to be an improved league.

That said, Temple returns three of its four leading scorers and welcomes back point guard Josh Brown, who was limited to five games and earned a medical redshirt after struggling to recover from Achilles tendon surgery.

Temple also has a highly touted freshman class.

With the experience and the newcomers, the Owls had high hopes as they spoke of the season Thursday during media day.

“We think we can make it to the second round, third round, as far as we want,” junior guard Shizz Alston said when asked about the Owls’ NCAA tournament chances.

In Brown’s absence, Alston ran the point. He will move to shooting guard, but  he will also have ballhandling duties.

Alston led the Owls with a 13.9 scoring average. Obi Enechionyia, a 6-10 senior, averaged 21 points his first seven games and then hit a slump that he never got out of. His scoring average dropped to 13.1 points.

Sophomore swingman Quinton Rose was fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 10.1 points.

Coach Fran Dunphy said that Brown is playing at about 90 percent capacity.

Brown is expected to be even further along by the time the Owls open their season  Nov. 16 against Old Dominion in the Charleston Classic.

“Just to have him on the court, his leadership means so much,” Dunphy said.

Dunphy won’t commit to whether any of the four freshmen would be in the rotation, but he said he has been impressed with each one.

They are 6-7 combo forward J.P. Moorman, 6-4 combo guard Nate Pierre-Louis, 6-10 forward-center Justyn Hamilton, and 6-6 swingman Dre Perry.

“All four of them have come in and been ready to go right from the start and it has been exciting,” Dunphy said. “The competitiveness at practice has risen exponentially and it has been great.”

Redshirt sophomore shooting guard Trey Lowe, who hasn’t played since suffering injuries in a Feb. 28, 2016 car accident, won’t be ready for the beginning of the season and it is unknown when he will return,  Dunphy said.