Degree of Difficulty

As the lone senior on a Temple squad that won just three of its first 14 games, forward Alex Wesby must have been disappointed as his final year on North Broad Street was coming to

As the lone senior on a Temple squad that won just three of its first 14 games, forward Alex Wesby must have been disappointed as his final year on North Broad Street was coming to a forgettable end.

Now, Wesby has a reason to be encouraged.

After the slow start, Wesby’s guidance and experience has contributed immensely to Temple’s resurgence.

The Owls have won 10 of their last 12 games, with the team gaining a first round bye in the Atlantic 10 tournament at Dayton Arena.

Temple takes on Richmond this afternoon in a quarterfinal matchup at 2 p.m.

Wesby leads the team in shooting from the field and from beyond the arc, while averaging 13.3 points a game.

However, his role as co-captain played a noticeable part for a team consisting of nine freshmen and sophomores.

The Owls won their final home game of the season, a 68-58 triumph over La Salle, but it was also Wesby’s final game played at the Liacouras Center as he was honored on “Senior Night”.

Despite a reputation for being timid, Wesby exhibits fire and emotion on the court.

He constantly instructs teammates where they need to be, communicates with the coaches, and keeps referees on their toes.

“Alex, he does say stuff, but he pulls you to the side instead of putting you out there in front of everybody,” junior guard and co-captain David Hawkins said.

“Sometimes people need that, especially when it’s freshmen. They can’t take the type of leader that always gets down on them.”

Growing up just a few blocks away from Temple, Wesby attended Ben Franklin High School, where he was an honor student and excelled in both track and field and basketball.

He won the Public League high jump championship as a junior and capped off his senior year with a city basketball title.

Choosing to stay in his backyard, Wesby opted to attend Temple.

In his first year, he was tagged a partial academic qualifier under NCAA guidelines.

This meant he could practice with the team, but was ineligible to compete in games.

Temple coach John Chaney has long viewed the NCAA’s requirements as barriers geared at keeping inner-city athletes out of universities.

“If [Wesby} was a baseball bat, I would pick him up by his legs and beat the (bleep) out of the NCAA,” Chaney said.

“Kids like that won’t be allowed to go to college anymore. He’ll probably be the last Prop 48 kid that we have here.”

Wesby almost quit the team midway through last season after the death of his mother.

During his time of grief, the support of Chaney and rest the team enabled him to persevere.

“Coach Chaney has been like a father to me here,” Wesby said.

“He stayed on me a lot, helped me get through battles. He’s always been in my corner since I came in here, and is a wonderful guy.”

After missing some time, he returned to the team and earned his bachelor’s degree in sports management.

Because he fulfilled the requirements for partial qualifiers, an NCAA mandate granted Wesby a coveted fifth year, regaining the year of eligibility he lost as a freshman.

One of Wesby’s fondest memories at Temple, he said, was being able to experience Senior Night twice, a rare and impressive feat.

The decision for his extra year of eligibility was still pending at this time last year, so he didn’t know if he was going to return.

Nonetheless, the program decided to honor him on Senior Night last year, knowing they might be doing it again a year later.

Wesby had always been a part of teams rich in senior leadership, and due to a heavy veteran presence he got within one game of the NCAA’s Final Four in 2000.

This year he found himself as the only Owl with senior status.

He has enjoyed the new role and says this year’s squad is by far the most memorable one he’s been affiliated with.

“I’d say this team was more challenging with a lot of young guys getting to learn the game. My role wasn’t as much as it was through previous years,” Wesby said.

Wesby thrived in his leadership role, and the rest of the Owls responded with a late-season run that has now positioned them for possible postseason play for the program’s 20th consecutive season.

One player who has been pivotal for the Owls has been junior small forward Brian Polk.

Generally playing the role of the Owls’ top man off the bench, he has started in place of injured freshman forward Antywane Robinson the last five games.

Like Wesby, Polk had to sit out his freshman year due to academics.

Wesby gave Polk nothing but his full support and sage advice as he struggled with the hardships.

Polk has come into his own, averaging 18.4 points and nailing 41 percent of his threes since being inserted as a starter.

“When I first came here he told me not to let certain things get to you because it might be something new to you that you have never experienced before,” Polk said of the advice he received from Wesby.

“So he said just be patient and take your time and everything else will come.”

The same advice applies to this team Wesby has guided.

They could have packed it in long ago, but the ball has started to roll their way and now it’s up to them as to how far they want to take it.

Jason S. Haslam can be reached at

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