By Tom Dougherty, CSNPhilly.com
Our City 6 men’s basketball previews begin today with a look at Temple. Above, our “Big Men on Campus Series” begins with Owls forward Jaylen Bond. On Tuesday, our City 6 preview continues with Saint Joseph’s.
Temple has a new man running the show this season — and there are going to be some growing pains.
Junior guard Josh Brown takes over as the starting point guard for Will Cummings, who graduated.
“It will be a little difficult being that we lost a great player,” senior guard Quenton DeCosey said Monday at Temple’s media day.
“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.”
Brown served as one of the top reserves last season on an Owls team that finished third in the American Athletic Conference with a 13-5 conference record, 26-11 overall.
This season, TU is expected to take a step back with the departure of Cummings and guard Jesse Morgan. TU was picked to finish sixth in the American in 2015-16.
The Owls open their season Friday night in Annapolis, Maryland, against No. 1 North Carolina in the Veterans Classic.
While head coach Fran Dunphy would not commit to a starting lineup, he did mention Brown has been his hardest-working player over the summer.
Dunphy has noticed Brown’s spending more time on the court and in the film room in the offseason — something his teammates have also noticed.
Last season, Brown was one of only three players to get minutes in all 37 games, with two starts. He led the team with 6.3 points per game off the bench in 21.8 minutes.
“I don’t want to be in late-game situations without him,” Dunphy said of Brown. “You can pretty much trust he’s going to be there.
“He was in the game always at the end of the game the last two years. So now instead of having Will be the go-to guy, Josh is going to have to have that mentality.
“I think he’s ready for that. There will be a little bit of growing pains but I think he’s ready for it and he deserves it.”
In the summer, Brown said he spent a lot of time on the court, but he was also focused on building his stamina off it. Additionally, he watched film of former Temple point guards Cummings, Khalif Wyatt and Juan Fernandez.
How is he adapting to being the guy now?
“It’s a lot different,” Brown said. “I’m not just waiting for the call anymore. I’ve got the ball in my hands. I’m making all the calls. It’s different in that sense. It’s basketball at the end of the day.”
Coming off the bench his first two years on North Broad, Brown learned a lot from playing behind Cummings. More importantly, Cummings taught him the importance of confidence.
“When your teammates see that you’re confident, they get more confidence,” Brown said, adding he wants to gain the trust of his teammates.
TU’s starting backcourt will feature Brown and DeCosey, its second-leading scorer last season at 12.3 points per game. Jaylen Bond, the Owls’ team captain, will also be a starter.
As for who joins Brown, DeCosey and Bond as starters, Dunphy shot off a few other names who could see starting time. Senior guard Devin Coleman has impressed Dunphy and may find his way into the starting five. Devontae Watson and Mark Williams can also start.
Sophomore forward Obi Enechionyia and redshirt junior guard/forward Dan Dingle will be in the rotation, and then there are the three freshmen. Levan Shawn Alston Jr., Trey Lowe and center Ernest Afakpui are all going to get playing time.
“The three freshmen have been very, very good, hard working and understanding the game. They’re ahead of my expectations.”
This time last season, the Owls’ coaching staff wanted TU to improve its defense and it did. Last season, TU was a much better defensive team than the 9-22 club from 2013-14. A big part of that was the addition of Bond, who sat out ’13-14 after transferring to Temple from Texas. The 6-foot-8 forward made an immediate impact.
Bond, a Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School product, led the AAC in rebounding at 7.9 per game. He also had 48 steals — 1.4 per game — and blocked 26 shots. With an increased leadership role, what does Dunphy want Bond to focus on as a senior?
“[Dunphy] wants me to play without fouling,” Bond said. “He doesn’t want me to go on the bench a lot, so I have to be smarter defensively.”
Dunphy was impressed with his team’s defense last season, but acknowledged this season there’s going to be a learning curve.
“We’re missing one critical ingredient from that team last year and that’s Will defensively,” Dunphy said.
“[Cummings] seldom allowed too many people to go by him and that’s the role Josh has to step up and perform.”
And it’s a role Brown is embracing.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: See the story on CSNPhilly.com)