Dunphy seeking separation at men’s basketball center spot

The Owls’ coach hasn’t decided whether sophomore Damion Moore or junior Ernest Aflakpui will start on Thursday against Old Dominion University in the Charleston Classic in South Carolina.

Junior center Ernest Aflakpui makes an overhead pass during Temple's 70-60 exhibition win against Jefferson University on Thursday at the Liacouras Center. | SYDNEY SCHAEFER / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Junior center Ernest Aflakpui couldn’t help but smile and laugh when talking about Damion Moore’s development.

The sophomore center is a “relentless rebounder’ and is helping Aflakpui become a better defender, Aflakpui said.

“I remember when he was a freshman last year and seeing him now, he’s gotten a whole lot better and he’s making me better too,” he added.

Coach Fran Dunphy has not decided whether Moore or Aflakpui will start on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. against Old Dominion University when the Owls open their season in the Charleston Classic in South Carolina.

Aflakpui started Thursday’s exhibition against Jefferson University at the Liacouras Center, where the Owls beat the Rams, 70-60. He had six rebounds, four of which on the offensive end, during his 20 minutes of play. He also had three points, two turnovers and two steals.

Aflakpui had three offensive rebounds in the first two minutes against the Rams. One of the rebounds came off a miss by sophomore guard Quinton Rose, who missed the second half due to cramps. Rose hasn’t been limited in practice this week and will play against Old Dominion, Dunphy said.

Moore had three points, five rebounds and a steal in 14 minutes off the bench. He shot 1-for-6 from the field and 1-for-3 from the free-throw line.

“I was getting an opportunity to score, but it just wasn’t falling or I wasn’t making hook shots,” Moore said. “But in a way, I know I can get those opportunities crashing the glass. …I’ve been working on those moves that I did in the game. So I’m just ready to play. Next game, I should be better.”

Moore started seven games and played in 20 contests during his freshman campaign, averaging 3.7 points, 2.9 rebounds and 11.4 minutes per game. He started six of Temple’s final seven games of the season and averaged 15.5 minutes and four rebounds per game and shot 48.4 percent from the field in those games.

Aflakpui nearly redshirted his freshman 2015-16 season because of complications from a knee injury he sustained in high school. He ended up playing 18 games and making six starts.

Aflakpui played in all 32 games last season and started 21 games. He averaged 4.3 points and five rebounds per game. Relying on scoring in the paint, Aflakpui shot 57.6 percent from the field, but he made just 22-of-43 free-throw attempts.

Both players have been working on offensive rebounding. It can be a way to create opportunities on offense when Moore isn’t getting as many offensive touches, he said.

Sophomore center Damion Moore rises for a right-handed dunk during Temple’s 70-60 exhibition win against Jefferson University on Thursday at the Liacouras Center. | SYDNEY SCHAEFER / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Offensive rebounds help Moore build confidence in his shot and help him get into a good rhythm to start games, he added. He wants to use the mid-range jumper he showcased at times last season to make defenders step out and contest him instead of just playing in the post.

Aflakpui’s mentality after he grabs an offensive board is to go up for a second-chance opportunity if he is open. If not, he will pass outside to one of the Owls’ shooters on the wing.

Both players are working on fighting for offensive rebounds without committing fouls and other aspects of their games.

“They both can catch better, make better decisions with the ball, rebound every time they get a chance, be in good position defensively,” Dunphy said.

“I’d like one of them to separate themselves,” he added. “I haven’t seen it yet.”

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