Will Cummings stood by himself at Madison Square Garden.
The buzzer sounded as the senior guard set the ball down, accepting the Owls’ 60-57 loss to the University of Miami in the semifinal of the National Invitation Tournament, and the bitter end of his Temple career.
Cummings and the Owls took on the task of returning a nine-win 2013-14 team back to relevancy in the college basketball postseason.
After 23 wins prior to Selection Sunday, learning they hadn’t done enough shook the ground of the team’s practice facility in McGonigle Hall, and sent them on a mission to prove the selection committee wrong by way of a NIT championship run.
While they came up short, the team’s pursuit of the Liacouras Center’s first banner in more than a decade continues next season on the shoulders of junior guard Quenton DeCosey as a scorer, junior forward Jaylen Bond as a defender and sophomore guard Josh Brown as the point guard responsible for replacing Cummings.
As the biggest wildcard in the group, Brown’s offseason progress could be all the difference in how the Newark, New Jersey native fairs, and if
last year is any indication, it could be a good sign.
“[Brown] worked harder than anybody we had in the program last [offseason],” Dunphy said. “I’m hoping he’ll do the same thing this offseason and have a terrific junior season for us. … We will get our underclassmen in the gym and start working a couple hours a week. It doesn’t sound like much but it gives us a good feeling of who is going to step up who is going to be a leader and who is going to start working hard.”
Down the stretch of the season, Brown showed flashes of his scoring ability, netting 11 points in two straight games against Bucknell on March 18 and George Washington University on March 22 – both NIT foes.
Despite nine double-digit scoring performances, Brown averaged 6.3 points per game on the season and was held to less than four points in another nine games.
Brown said he believes that while he saw similar minutes in both his freshman and sophomore year, his ability has grown substantially due to offseason work.
“I feel a whole lot better because of the hard work I put in,” Brown said following the Owls’ 73-67 win against Bucknell on March 18. “I’m not really looked to score a lot, but when the ball is in my hands I get a lot kick outs and I gotta be able to knock that shot down. … I just try to go out there and play as hard as I can, when I see an opening I gotta put my head down.”
Brown’s role as a sixth man suited him well, judging by the numbers. During Will Cummings’ mid-season absence caused by a lingering left ankle injury, Brown was given starting duties against conference foes Southern Methodist and Cincinnati, the Top 2 teams in the conference.
Brown averaged 4.5 ppg and two assists per game in the two costly losses, despite seeing an average of 30 minutes – nine more than his season average. The most troubling number, however, was Brown’s 4.5 turnovers per game when given the keys to running the Owls’ offense – 3.6 more turnovers per game than his season average.
Brown’s junior year will be the first time the 6-foot-3 guard will be given the full-time job of running the point guard spot. If he succeeds, the Owls may fall on the right side of the bubble and end a two-year NCAA tournament drought, but if not, another year could slip by without a banner finding its way into the ceiling of the Liacouras Center.
EJ Smith can be reached at email@example.com, 215.204. 9537, or on Twitter @ejsmitty17.
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