The Dustin Salisbery who committed to Temple in 2003 is not the Dustin Salisbery who will leave here this spring.
A bit rough around the edges, Salisbery struggled to fall in line with former coach John Chaney’s system.
As an underclassman, Salisbery liked to push the ball on offense and then pressure it on defense.
His fast-paced style of play didn’t sit well with Chaney. And Chaney’s hollering didn’t sit well with Salisbery.
“I don’t believe anybody cusses at you like coach Chaney cusses at you,” Salisbery said.
“As you get older, it’s easier to let the point get through. When you’re young – 16, 17, 18 – you really don’t understand that.”
A lot has changed since his first days in North Philadelphia, but his peers’ expectations for him have remained the same.
Fran Dunphy, Chaney’s successor, expects
a lot from Salisbery, a 6-5, 205-pound guard who is in his final season with the men’s basketball team.
Following the graduation of the team’s top two scorers from a year ago, Salisbery will be looked upon to carry the young and untested Owls, who were chosen by coaches and media to finish ninth in the Atlantic Ten Conference.
That’s a duty Salisbery is prepared to take on, Dunphy said.
“He’s a self-assured guy. And, in all honesty, he needs to have that and be a good leader for us to be good,” Dunphy said.
Salisbery’s leadership is a project years in the making, but will amplify this year. He’s played with some of Temple’s elite scorers, but his inspiration to be a better leader comes from off the court:
His name is DeMajh and he’ll celebrate his second birthday in April.
“You’ve got to be a better person when you step in those shoes, when you’re a father,”
Salisbery said. “For me, I want to make a career out of this, so it’s not like I’m playing for myself anymore.”
Salisbery has been with DeMajh’s mother for almost five years. She and their son live in Lancaster, where Salisbery visits nearly every weekend.
“You’ve got to take the same approach on the floor that you’d make in life and be more mature,” he said. “That’s where I’m at.”
In terms of basketball, Salisbery is finally embracing a leadership role this season. In years past, it was a different story.
Salisbery has ranked no higher than third on the team in scoring in any of his three seasons. He’s had to look to his teammates first, and only then take a shot. It won’t be that way this season, Dunphy said.
“We may need him to be selfish on occasion this year,” the first-year coach said. “Dustin has a high talent level and he’ll …make people say, ‘That’s a really extraordinary move.'”
Quiet by nature, Salisbery hasn’t played like the go-to-guy. That’s because he hasn’t been. Surrounded with talent, Salisbery has suited up with David Hawkins, Mardy Collins and Antywane Robinson.
But this is Salisbery’s year. He knows it. So do his teammates.
“Coach Dunphy is letting Dustin speak up this year,” said Dacons, who has roomed with Salisbery for parts of three years. “I know Dustin wants to win and a lot of that is going to be on him.”
But Salisbery’s maturation process first took flight at J.P. McCaskey High in Lancaster, and not on the hardwood of the Liacouras Center.
McCaskey coach Stephen Powell identified
Salisbery’s turning point – a three-game stretch Salisbery missed as a 10th grader due to off-court activity.
“At that time, he figured basketball was king and that it would get him by,” Powell said. “We told him it was about being a responsible student and a responsible young man.”
Salisbery used that experience as a springboard to better play in his later years at McCaskey and at Temple.
That was evident when he was a senior at McCaskey, when midway through a game, he complained to Powell about physical play.
“I told him you have to seize the moment
and be a man about it,” Powell said.
So Salisbery did, en route to wracking up 40 points, 17 rebounds and six blocks in a winning effort.
Salisbery has faced adversity, and has fought through it.
Powell has never lost touch with his former
player, often traveling to Philadelphia to watch from the stands.
In the offseason, Salisbery returns to Lancaster to volunteer at Powell’s basketball camps, where Salisbery is free to speak to younger players about leadership on and off the court.
Powell has witnessed Salisbery’s maturation.
He wants others to see it, as well.
“I’m hoping Temple gets the chance to see the player Chaney recruited,” Powell said.
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at email@example.com.