These days, the men’s basketball team is a little point guard heavy.
Senior guard Semaj Inge and freshman guard Juan Fernandez are getting most of the minutes on game day, putting junior guard Luis Guzman’s position in flux.
“Last year, we had a different team,” Guzman said. “I had more of a role. We have some new additions to the team. I haven’t got the opportunities that I had last year, so I just got to wait for the opportunities to come so I can make the best out of it.”
Last year, Guzman started in 27 of 33 games for the Owls. This year, he was tabbed as the opening game point guard, playing 36 minutes against East Tennessee State on Nov. 14. Early injuries to sophomore forward Lavoy Allen and senior center Sergio Olmos prolonged Guzman’s place in the Owls’ four-guard lineup.
Dec. 6 against Penn State, with the Cherry and White operating at full strength, Guzman was relegated to a sixth-man role. Consequently, Inge went on to earn a career-best 19 points and the starting point guard duties.
“I don’t think he took it that hard because I guess it didn’t really set in yet,” Inge said. “He didn’t really understand what was going on. I just keep telling him no matter what game it is, whether we are playing Saint Joe’s or Fordham, you always got to be ready.”
And Inge knows all about the junior-year blues.
His sophomore campaign consisted of 21.7 minutes per game, while the following year he played only 11.7. The large statistical dip translated into a more fruitful senior season. This time around, Inge has career-highs in points per game (7.3), minutes per game (28) and currently leads the team in assists with 91.
“I went through a lot of the same stuff he’s going through my junior year,” Inge said. “It’s always important when myself or Juan doesn’t have it going, then [Luis] can come in and provide some energy, provide some toughness, provide outside jump shots, so it’s always good to have a guy like him on your team.”
Fernandez, who arrived on North Broad Street from Argentina Dec. 26, saw his first game action Jan. 5. Prior to that day, Guzman was averaging 24.6 minutes per game. Since then, the Bronx, N.Y., native is on the court 5.9 minutes per contest, a number skewed by five games Guzman didn’t enter.
“It’s hard,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “I’m sure he’s getting frustrated, and he wants to play, and I respect that. If he didn’t get frustrated, I would be disappointed, but he’s a good guy, and I hope that he maintains his level of understanding of what we’re trying to get across.”
While Guzman admits it’s been tough, he will look to contribute however possible through the final leg of the Owls’ conference schedule. Whether it’s tutoring Fernandez or finding sporadic minutes, Guzman holds a team-first mentality.
“At times [it’s frustrating], but the most important thing is winning,” Guzman said. “This year, Coach has a different philosophy, so it’s been working, so I can’t even complain. The team has to be successful.”
Guzman’s 2.4 points per game is a reduction from last year’s 3.9 average, but the competition at point guard is tighter than ever. Teammates are confident that he will find a way back into Dunphy’s go-to corner.
“It’s just going to take one or two games for [Luis] to come in and do well for him to get back in and get back in Coach’s good graces,” Inge said.
Guzman, who has the special distinction of being Hall of Fame coach John Chaney’s last Temple recruit, knows his responsibilities will increase with the departure of Inge next season. The legendary coach obviously saw potential in Guzman, who will have his sights set on finding a niche.
Whether that’s sooner or later remains to be seen.
Anthony Stipa can be reached at email@example.com.