Here at Temple, fans have grown accustomed to having one well-defined senior leader on the roster at the beginning of every season. There hasn’t been any real doubt in recent years who would get the last shot in crunch-time.
Last year, it was David Hawkins.
Before that, it was Alex Wesby.
Before that, Lynn Greer.
And before that, Quincy Wadley.
A quick perusal of the 2004 men’s basketball roster reveals no such leader. Seniors Nehemiah Ingram and Wilbur Allen are not seen as players with clutch shooting experience. The lineup seems heavy with freshmen and sophomores who will need someone to mold them into a cohesive unit.
This year, junior Mardy Collins wants to be that someone.
“I think that is the key, me being out there, being a leader, showing the younger guys what they need to do for us to be better as a team,” said Collins, the Owls’ starting point guard. “It’s really hard for them to understand sometimes when coach is saying it, because he’s yelling at them and getting on them. They can take that in a negative way. It’s my job out there to explain to them what coach is saying.”
Assistant coach Mark Macon feels Collins is the natural choice to inherit the leadership role because of his playing experience and his duties on the court. Collins has started all 63 games since his arrival here, most of them at the point despite his natural tendency as a slasher and scorer.
“Right now, Mardy’s our leader,” Macon said. “In terms of playing, he’s the one that’s been here the longest. He understands what’s going on, on the floor, being in the point guard position. He’s just moved into the [leadership] role.”
The role as co-captain, which he shares with junior forward Antywane Robinson, is not as absurd a fate as it might seem for an originally less-than-heralded swingman from Simon Gratz High School in Philadelphia.
The Owls have tried to fill his position with a true point guard, but have failed either because the player became ineligible or simply because Collins was more effective.
“He’s been very patient, not looking for his shot and setting up the offenses I’ve set up for them,” coach John Chaney said. “He hasn’t been asked to shoot as much, and as a point guard we’ve always asked him to get the other guys involved.”
Collins has taken his assignments as they have come, and says the past has no bearing on his responsibilities now.
“I don’t put any extra pressure on myself because of all that,” he said. “I just feel as though it’s something that had to happen, and leadership is always going to be passed down once someone leaves school. I feel as though it’s my time to step up and be a leader.”
Being that leader, Collins said, doesn’t necessarily mean being caustic and sarcastic like Chaney or even Hawkins, last year’s captain.
“[Hawkins] was vocal in a way sort of like coach. He would get down on people, but I’m not that type of person. I’m not going to yell,” Collins said. “I mean, I yell, but I won’t get on them real bad, make them mad. I don’t want to make any of my teammates mad, but just tell them what they need to do and keep their confidence up.”
He claims that now, but with two freshman (forward Wayne Marshall and guard Mark Tyndale) projected as starters and sophomore Dustin Salisbery slated to play significant minutes off the bench once he recovers from a basketball-related hernia, Collins might not be so long on patience once the season is off and running.
“He’s bringing along guys like Wayne, as well as Mark Tyndale, but those guys are young and they’re new,” Macon said. “So you have to pretty much bring them along slowly.”
But Collins is quick to note he’s only a junior, and most of the team will return intact in 2005. So anything that happens this year is only a preview of greater things to come, he hopes.
“It makes me comfortable knowing I have this year and next year, so I know what I don’t do this year I can work on and make better for next year,” he said. “So that’s a big help.”
Benjamin Watanabe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.