Piper’s growth becomes crucial to team’s success

Last season, forward Ines Piper never reached double figures in points or rebounds. This year, she has hit double figures in those stats multiple times less than 10 games into the season

Temple Women's Basketball Foward Ines Piper has taken significant strides, leading her to be an impact player for the Owls this season.| TROY NEWBY/ THE TEMPLE NEWS

Last season, then-junior forward Ines Piper entered Temple’s program after two years at the junior college level with Northwest Florida State College, where she started nearly every game during her final season. 

Temple Women’s Basketball head coach Diane Richardson recruited Piper ahead of the 2022-23 season, knowing she would serve as an important player in Richardson’s new program.

Piper proved what she was capable of doing in the Cherry and White, but felt she had more room to grow as a player. During the offseason, Piper worked countless hours in McGonigle Hall and beyond. She worked with her staff, especially Temple’s Director of Player Personnel Shenita Landry, on improving in the frontcourt.

“We did a lot of work on my ball handling and shot,” Piper said. “We worked hard all summer to make sure I was ready to not only be a post player but also that I could help my team as guard.”

Her hard work has seemingly paid off so far this season. She’s gone from a solid player to one of the best on the roster in one offseason because of the work she put in to become pivotal to the program.

Piper struggled to assert herself offensively last season. She played in every game, starting most of them, but put up less than four points per game on 40 percent shooting from the field.

This season, she has completely flipped the script on the offensive end. Piper put up double-digit points for the first time in her Temple career in the Owls’ season opener on Nov. 6, scoring 15 points while shooting an efficient 50 percent from the field. 

Piper has built on that early momentum, making at least four field goals in five of Temple’s first eight games, and has shot at least 50 percent in every game except one. Her 54 percent shooting from the field is second on the team among regular players, and she has increased her points per game average this year by almost four points, up to 7.6. 

The improved versatility of Piper’s game is evident, and a majority of it comes from the style of offense Richardson has placed her in. Piper has shown an array of impressive post moves while being a force on the offensive glass, scoring most of her points on second-chance shots.

She has also worked on extending her range, believing that adding a three-point shot spaces the floor more for her teammates and makes her more of an offensive threat.

“I can be a three level scorer,” Piper said. “It is difficult for a post player to guard someone who is versatile and has guard skills so I feel like that is the best part of my game.”

While her offensive game has improved, Piper has seen her defensive prowess take steps forward as well.

Piper led the Owls in blocks and offensive rebounds last season, while finishing second in total rebounds. She continues to be a force in the paint this season, already recording two double-digit rebound games and is tied for the team lead in blocked shots. On Dec. 11, she was named to the AAC and Big 5 weekly Honor Roll.

After not having any double-doubles last season, she has notched three is less than 10 games.| TROY NEWBY/ THE TEMPLE NEWS

Along with her improvement on the court, Piper has taken on a new role for the team off the court; being a leader. This year’s Temple team has seven new faces, pushing Piper into a mentorship role.

“I feel like I have some younger teammates now that I have to look after and set a good example for,” Piper said. “I can’t just sit back and be satisfied anymore. I have to push harder and be hard on myself to set a good example.”

Freshman center Jaleesa Molina is one of the younger players Piper has taken under her wing.

Like Piper, Molina is from Europe and faced difficulties adjusting to the style of play and American culture off the court. Piper and Molina are also roommates, and Piper always steps up to help Molina by mentoring her, providing advice about basketball and beyond.

“She just gives me tips about how to focus more because I am missing home,” Molina said. “She has helped me through it not only on the court but off the court as well. We have a good bond already.”

A major issue last season for Richardson was the lack of depth and performance in the frontcourt. While players like Molina were brought on in the offseason, Piper’s growth has played a bigger factor than anyone else in the frontcourt. 

Her leadership for new players has helped make Temple’s frontcourt, which was once the team’s Achilles heel, a strength.

The confidence in Piper is growing each game as she continues to get comfortable playing D1 competition. The work she put in during the offseason to grow as a player has yielded impressive results early, and Piper’s ceiling might still be higher.

“How really good she actually is, is so impressive,” Landry said. “We only see a small snippet of it. She is a great player and I don’t even know if she knows how really good she is.” 

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