Anyone who closely follows Temple basketball was disappointed to hear that Rysheed Jordan made a verbal commitment to St. John’s on Thursday, April 11, after it appeared that the Owls might have an inside track on the top-flight Philly recruit.
Jordan attended Vaux High School and grew up in North Philadelphia. He’s attended more Temple basketball games than any other high-level recruit in recent memory, and told The Inquirer after his announcement that coach Fran Dunphy is “great” and that he wanted to go to Temple since he was a little kid.
A point guard who averaged 25 points per game in his senior season, Jordan was ranked as the No. 22 player in the country in the 2013 class by ESPN. He undoubtedly would have been the most significant recruit to land at Temple since Dunphy has been coach.
But Jordan didn’t land at Temple. He chose Steve Lavin’s Red Storm instead of the Owls and UCLA, and there’s been much speculation as to why.
Jordan told the Inquirer that he simply wanted to get away from home. Jordan, 18, doesn’t want to go to college in Philadelphia. Playing basketball at Temple, Jordan said, would be like “playing in my backyard.”
Jordan denied an interview request over the phone and NCAA rules prevent Dunphy from talking about players who have yet to sign a National Letter of Intent. Jordan will officially sign tomorrow, April 17.
Frustrated fans, on the other hand, have been quick to point the finger at Dunphy. An old timer who values work ethic, Dunphy is known for recruiting mid-level talent and coaching players into serviceable starting roles by the time they’re upperclassmen. Dunphy rarely plays freshmen, an oddity in the modern game of college basketball.
While Dunphy’s “everything’s earned, nothing’s given” coaching style is commendable, it’s the type of mentality that will detract some recruits who want to play right away.
As a result, Dunphy has displayed an inability to keep some of Philadelphia’s best recruits from leaving the city since he took over as head coach. This past recruiting season, Temple made unsuccessful offers to Lower Merion’s B.J. Johnson, Imhotep Charter’s Brandon Austin and Chester’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, whose brother Rahlir will graduate this summer after playing for the Owls for four years.
More maddening to some, when local kids do decide to go to college in Philadelphia, they’re choosing every school but Temple. La Salle junior Tyreek Duren – from Neumann-Goretti High School – and former St. Joseph’s University forward C.J. Aiken – from Plymouth Whitemarsh – stand out as two recruits the Owls let slip through their fingers.
A Philadelphia native hasn’t committed to play men’s basketball at Temple since Scootie Randall joined the team in 2008.
But in Jordan’s case, give Dunphy credit for making it as close as it was and understand that it’s clear that there wasn’t much more he could do.
Dunphy has tried to recruit Jordan since he was a freshman in high school. He attended most of Jordan’s practices and games, and was front-and-center to watch Jordan score 32 points in Vaux’s PIAA Class A state championship win. Though Dunphy has a history, it would be unreasonable to suggest that Jordan wouldn’t have played as a freshman.
Based on the interviews he gave after he announced, it’s clear Jordan loved Temple, but wanted to get away from home.
“I wanted to go [to Temple] since I was little,” Jordan told the Inquirer. “Coach Dunphy did a great job recruiting me. Came to my practices and mostly all my games. It’s just that now, seeing as I’m older, I don’t want to be in Philly for college. If Temple was somewhere else, I’d be going.”
Regardless of whether or not Dunphy fouled up by not landing Jordan, college basketball is changing, and so too must Dunphy. The John Calipari knockoffs, with their slicked-back hair and relentless recruiting habits, are taking over a sport that has become increasingly injected with one-and-dones and early exits.
The Ramone Moore’s and Scootie Randall’s of the world aren’t going to win you a championship anymore – they probably never were. In fact, they usually won’t even win you an NCAA tournament game.
The two mid-level recruits already signed to the 2013 class – Josh Brown of St. Anthony High School and Kyle Green of Camden Catholic High School – indicate that Dunphy’s recruiting strategy this year has been more of the same.
With Jordan, Dunphy was putting his best foot forward. The problem is that he’s been moving in the wrong direction for years.
Joey Cranney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @joey_cranney.