Temple University men’s basketball will finally begin their 2020-21 season tomorrow.
The Owls (0-0, 0-0 The American Athletic Conference) will compete in its first game against the New Jersey Institute of Technology (0-0, 0-0 America East Conference) at the Liacouras Center on Dec. 19 at 4:30 p.m.
The Owls were originally scheduled to open their season against NJIT on Nov. 25, but after a 14-day pause due to a positive COVID-19 test in Temple’s program, the NJIT game and others were postponed, The Temple News reported.
Temple practiced for two weeks to prepare for the NJIT game, but the team’s rotation is still uncertain and will see plenty of new players on the court, said head coach Aaron McKie.
The Owls added four freshmen and three transfers to the roster this offseason after their leading scorer Quinton Rose and leading rebounder Nate Pierre-Louis entered the NBA Draft.
McKie is dealing with a completely different roster, where who starts could be further changed if players have to sit out due to a positive COVID-19 test or contact tracing.
“Everybody needs to be prepared to play, a couple weeks ago we only had five healthy bodies,” McKie said. “Things change, so everybody has to prepare themselves mentally and physically to be ready to play.”
Senior forward captains J.P. Moorman II and De’Vondre Perry are anticipated to start for the Owls, as well as returning starter junior forward Jake Forrester.
Redshirt-freshman guard Damian Dunn is expected to start in the backcourt alongside freshman guard Jeremiah Williams.
Sophomore guard Khalif Battle, who was granted an eligibility waiver by the NCAA on Nov. 25, transferred from Butler University last season. In high school he was ranked as the 82nd-best prospect in the 2019 class by ESPN and could be a potential contributor this season.
NJIT will also be playing their first game of the season on Saturday.
Some notable players from NJIT’s roster are senior guard Zach Cooks, who scored a team high 19.7 points per game last season, and junior guard Souleymane Diakite, who led the team in rebounds and blocks last season.
Temple has won six-straight season openers held at the Liacouras Center. The last time Temple lost a season opener was in 2004 against Auburn, in a 80-78 defeat.
The Owls are going into this game against the Highlanders with small goals, like sharing the game, making passes and cutting hard, McKie said.
“They’ll make mistakes, but that’s how you make up for them,” McKie added. “They’ll get the opportunity to use their voice, be coachable and play unselfish. That’s my expectation for all the guys.”