The team’s lack of success isn’t why Lee is transferring – at least, it’s not the reason he’s giving publicly. The redshirt-junior forward said he’s accomplished everything he can at Temple. He wants to go to another school to improve himself as a player, expand his game and improve his chances for an NBA career.
Lee wants to establish himself as a professional prospect. He doesn’t think he can do that at Temple. And while fans of the program may not like it, Lee’s concern is legitimate.
Temple is not known for producing star NBA talent. The best pro careers of former Owls were had by Eddie Jones and Guy Rodgers, the only two Temple alums to average 10 or more points a game in the NBA or ABA. Lavoy Allen, who graduated in 2011, has been playing for less than three years in largely a bench role. Allen is already 13th in minutes played in the NBA/ABA among former Owls. The forward is eighth in rebounds with 853 and first in rebounds per game, averaging 4.8 for his career.
Allen is also one of four Fran Dunphy recruits to play in the NBA, and the only one from Temple. The other three – Jerome Allen, Ira Bowman and Matt Maloney – played under Dunphy at the University of Pennsylvania. Jerome Allen, who now coaches Penn, and Bowman had short, non-impactful NBA careers. Maloney, a point guard, came into the league and started all 82 regular season games with the Houston Rockets as a rookie in the 1996-97 season. He averaged 9.4 points and 3.7 assists per game and helped take the Rockets to the Western Conference Finals in his best NBA season.
Lavoy Allen and guard Dionte Christmas are the only two Owls in the NBA now. Christmas, who plays sparingly for the Phoenix Suns, played under Dunphy for three seasons but was recruited by John Chaney. Another Dunphy recruit, guard Khalif Wyatt, plays in the D-League for the Springfield Armor.
While he deserves plenty of credit for taking unheralded high school players and turning them into good college players, Dunphy has not produced much NBA talent in his career. He has been a head coach for 26 years and no one he coached in college has become a consistent starter in the NBA.
To be fair, he spent much of his career at an Ivy League school, where it’s rare to get players with a lot of pro potential. It’s also not Dunphy’s job to recruit players who will do well in the NBA. It’s his job to recruit players who will mesh well and be successful at the college level.
Then again, more successful pro players from Temple would go a long way toward helping bring recruits to the school, something that hasn’t been terribly successful in recent years. Five-star recruits have plans of going to the NBA before they even get to college, so Dunphy already has ground to make up before he even meets high-ranking prospects. Now Temple isn’t only losing out on high schoolers because of NBA dreams – it’s losing a player that has been at Temple since Fall 2010.
Lee’s loss might not be a huge problem for the Owls on the court. His departure will allow young big men like Devontae Watson, Mark Williams and Obi Enechionyia to play and develop more next season. The biggest problem with this transfer is that it reinforces Temple as a program that doesn’t produce top talent – and that’s a label no one wants.
“I know I have the abilities,” Lee said of playing in the NBA. “I just have to be in a place where it’s going to allow me to do that.”
Evan Cross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @EvanCross.