The Temple Owls were robbed of an NCAA Tournament bid in the 2014-15 season, but had a magnificent turnaround which led to Fran Dunphy being named as the American Athletic Conference Coach of the Year.
The Owls finished 26-11 (13-5), with a Division I record 17-win turnaround from the previous season. Their season stopped at the NIT semifinals in a 60-57 loss to the Miami Hurricanes.
The Owls’ core is still in place, but they’ll be without potent scorer and leader Will Cummings as well as reliable shooter Jesse Morgan, who both graduated. The two accounted for nearly 26 points per game for the Owls.
“It will be a little difficult being that we lost a great player,” senior guard Quenton DeCosey said at Temple's media day Monday. “But Josh Brown will step up. He's working extremely hard. He's a great defender. He's very poised in the backcourt. Not as much of a scorer as Will, but can get everybody involved.”
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Brown’s development was crucial to the Owls’ success last season, especially on the defensive end. Brown averaged 6.3 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists last season in 21.9 minutes per game.
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He’ll have a pretty good freshman behind him in point guard Levan Alston. Alston was named the Gatorade Pennsylvania Boys Basketball Player of the Year in 2015. He averaged 19.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.1 steals per game for the Haverford School. He’s rated the No. 96 recruit in the class of 2015 by ESPN. He’s joined by Trey Lowe and center Ernest Arfakpui as freshman who can potentially make an impact.
“They're going to be in there,” Dunphy said of the three freshman. “The better they play the more minutes they're going to get. … The three freshmen have been very, very good, hard working and understanding the game. They're ahead of my expectations.”
The Owls will also have three returning starters looking to continue their stellar play from last year. Team captain and senior forward Jaylen Bond (7.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.4 steals), DeCosey (12.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists) and sophomore forward Obi Enechionyia (5.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.3 blocks) will all play larger roles in 2015-16.
The Owls begin their season Friday against No. 1 North Carolina in the Vetarans Classic at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. The game will air at 7 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.