ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Fran Dunphy stood among a circle of reporters at Boardwalk Hall last Thursday, answering questions about the upcoming men’s basketball season which features several difficult non-conference opponents including Tennessee, Duke and Florida.
“We’re going to go to McDonald’s for the pregame meal, but they’ll have 10 McDonald’s All-Americans,” Dunphy joked on the Florida game.
Upon saying the line, the Owls’ coach took a moment to admire his wit.
That’s not the only line Dunphy hopes to be admiring when the season kicks off Nov. 9 against the Volunteers. He’ll be keeping careful watch of the line-scores of Temple’s frontcourt, an aspect that could determine the success of the Owls, given the talent resting at the guard positions.
Two weeks into practice, Dunphy said he has particularly been impressed with the play of freshman Lavoy Allen, a 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward.
“Lavoy has exceeded our expectations,” Dunphy said. “That would be the one thing that jumps out at you. He’s much more ready to play than I thought he would be and I would credit his high school coaching to that.”
Allen averaged 13 points and 9.6 rebounds as a senior at Pennsbury High and was rated the 13th best center in the nation by Rivals.com. Such production, coupled with the Owls’ interior woes last season, has created a highly-anticipated debut.
The Owls were outrebounded last season by an average of 4.5 rebounds per game, which ranked them 12th in the 14-team Atlantic Ten Conference. Often, 6-6 Dion Dacons, who has since graduated, was the tallest player on the floor as the Owls utilized four-guard sets.
Allen was recruited to help shore this problem.
With just four frontcourt players listed on the Owls’ roster, Allen will garner significant playing time. He and junior Sergio Olmos, a 7-0 center, have the task of anchoring the post.
Olmos started 17 games last season, but only averaged 13.5 minutes. He was often overmatched physically and Dunphy noted several times that Olmos needed another year to develop.
That year has come.
“Sergio Olmos is a guy who will play hopefully a lot of minutes,” Dunphy said. “But he’s got to keep himself on the floor. [He] has a tendency to get into some foul trouble. But again, he’s older, wiser and more understanding of everything that’s going on. So, he should be in good shape.”
The Owls other two frontcourt players, senior Orlando Miller and freshman Craig Williams, lack the experience of Olmos and the untapped potential of Allen.
Miller, a walk-on, has a total of 14 minutes under his belt. Williams hails from the Virgin Islands, where the talent pool is not as deep. He averaged 25 points and 10 rebounds at St. Croix Central, but adjusting to the college game will be a major step for the 6-9, 240-pound freshman, Dunphy said.
“Craig Williams is a freshman who is a talented player, but he’s not as athletic as some of the other guys he’s going to play against, and not as quick as some of the other guys he’s going to play against,” Dunphy said. “So, he’s got to be smarter than everybody else he plays against.”
Unlike last season, when the Owls were one of the final teams to open their season, Dunphy doesn’t have much more time to tweak his team. The Owls have a week and half before they kick off the season against a heavily-favored Tennessee team.
John Kopp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org