The newest recruit to the men’s basketball team is a solid talent possessing a dream attitude, according to current coaches and future teammates. Semaj Inge, a senior at Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden, signed a National Letter of Intent last week, as anticipated.
“In my opinion, Temple got a steal,” said John Hardnett, coach of the Sonny Hill Senior All-Stars, the team on which Inge played this spring. “There were a couple schools that didn’t like the kid, but he played in the Sonny Hill Futures Tournament last year and if his team had won, he probably would have been the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.”
Inge, a 6-foot-4, 180-pound point guard who averaged 20.7 points and 7.0 assists as a senior at Wilson, said the possibility of playing for coach John Chaney attracted him to Temple. Inge attended the game against Saint Joseph’s on Feb. 22 when Chaney sparked weeks of controversy with his postgame comments, and Inge said the incident only further cemented his decision.
“When Coach did that, it just showed he really cares [about his players],” Inge said. “No matter how bad he talks about them, he still really cares about them. I like that a lot.”
Inge was in the starting lineup with Drexel recruit Scott Rodgers for the Sonny Hill Seniors last Tuesday. Inge had 14 points, two assists, one steal and one block in a loss to the Playaz Basketball Club in the Albert C. Donofrio Classic championship game.
Allen Rubin, an editor of Hoopscooponline.com, a national recruiting service, said Inge has all the necessary tools for a point guard. Inge has good court vision and can distribute the ball, though he needs to add some muscle, Rubin said.
By all accounts, Inge’s most notable trait is his polite demeanor. Hardnett joked that when teammates tell Inge, “Nice pass,” he modestly replies, “Thank you.” Freshman guard Mark Tyndale said he particularly enjoyed entertaining Inge during the high schooler’s official visit the weekend of April 16.
“Me and Mardy Collins hosted him, showed him around a little bit,” said Tyndale, who played for Hardnett last year. “He seemed like a real humble kid, a real nice guy. I think he can help us a lot.”
The Owls hope Inge will provide depth in the backcourt. Starters Collins and Tyndale led the team in minutes per game last season with averages of 37.6 and 34.6, respectively. Primary backup Dustin Salisbery, who averaged 28.6 minutes per game, is more of a wing player than a point.
“[Inge] shot the ball pretty well, but it’s the ‘team’ things he does,” Hardnett said. “He’s going to be able to run the offense and maybe let Mardy run a little bit at the two [shooting guard], and we’re going to work him out a little bit this summer with some of the college guys and pro guys.”
In his own mind, Inge said, he committed to Temple from the moment he found out Chaney was in the crowd at one of his games at Wilson. His only reservation was Chaney’s shout-filled early morning practices, but he was reassured when he saw how personally close the Owls seemed to be.
“He was excited about how we welcomed him, how we were a family,” Tyndale said. “He liked the way Coach treated him as a person. He’ll have a good career.”
Philadelphia’s Dionte Christmas, a 6-foot-5 guard at Lutheran Christian, surprised observers when he committed to Temple. His signing was reported Monday on Rivals.com.
Christmas was a top consideration by Illinois, Connecticut, Villanova and Pittsburgh, among others. If he does not qualify to play in the fall, he will enroll as a partial qualifier.
Benjamin Watanabe can be reached at email@example.com.