By: Drew Bishop
Facing new challenges and without an official schedule set, Temple men’s basketball began practice today.
After an offseason packed with uncertainty, second-year head coach Aaron McKie is tasked with building chemistry in a short period of time.
“The majority of our conference was in the gym at the beginning of the summer” McKie said during Wednesday’s Zoom media availability. “We got to work from behind, which is okay, as long as we get the opportunity to get out there and play I think everyone will be happy.”
According to McKie, when the team returned to campus they were being COVID tested weekly. Now, they’re being tested twice a week, with the possibility of daily tests in the near future.
Each AAC team has been limited by COVID-19 restrictions, but the Owls have had their work cut out for them in other ways, losing seven key contributors to the transfer portal or graduation. That includes the three leading scorers for Temple last season; Quinton Rose, Nate Pierre-Louis, and Alani Moore.
“We’re kind of like the Miami Heat. We don’t care who gets the shot or who gets the credit. We don’t have a supreme alpha dog,” senior J.P. Moorman said of this year’s roster.
While the Owls lack top-heavy scoring like prior years, their leadership is just as strong.
“Your leaders aren’t always the guys that score the most points,” McKie said. “They’re the guys who have the most impact daily. That might be in practice, that might be in the locker room, that’s who guys respect the most.”
One player that could step up for the Owls in his first year is guard Jeremiah Williams from Simeon High School in Chicago.
“Jeremiah’s a dog,” senior De’Vondre Perry said. “He’s not a poodle, he’s more of a pitbull. He has a lot of heart. Pushing us offensively, pushing us defensively. He’s the type of guy that could have a significant impact on our season.”
Moorman added to the compliments of Williams referring to him as “a real cerebral guy.” If sophomore Tai Strickland is still sidelined with a shoulder injury, Williams could be tasked with taking his minutes.
Another player with minimal college experience who has a chance to step up is Damian Dunn. After being sidelined the first 12 games of last season with a foot injury, he only logged 18 minutes of game action before reinjuring it for the remainder of the year. His role in the rotation will be crucial for the Owls.
“He’s a skilled basketball player. He has a good IQ for the game,” McKie said. “He’s got some maturing to do like all young guys in college, and that’s part of my job to help him.”
As for having fans in the Liacouras Center, McKie emphasized safety, but that the fans are as important as always.
“Safety is first. If it’s feasible and doable, we certainly want to have as many fans in there as possible. We want to work through this pandemic, we want to make sure that everyone gets on the right side of this. We’ll get back to basketball, we and our normal lives, we gotta find ways to work through it.”
When the season will begin is still up in the air. McKie said there have been some mock schedules written up, but Temple will continue to wait for the American Conference to be officially scheduled. When the team finally gets out for the season opener, they will have Black Lives Matter patches on their jerseys, as well as warm-up shirts with social activism phrases, according to Perry.