Ryan Brooks and Lavoy Allen have to carry the team after three seniors departed.
One glaring question looms as the men’s basketball team prepares to open its 2009-2010 season Saturday at Delaware.
How will the Owls replace three starting spots and fill the offensive production that is no longer on the roster?
Dionte Christmas, Sergio Olmos and Semaj Inge, three main figures who helped lead Temple to its second straight Atlantic Ten title and NCAA Tournament appearance, have completed their four years at Temple. Coach Fran Dunphy is now left searching for ways to fill the void.
“We’re going to miss Dionte. We’re also going to miss Sergio and Semaj,” Dunphy said. “But that’s what happens in college basketball life. You retool each and every year. It’s the nature of what we do. You can’t dwell it. We just have to move on.”
Moving on is going to be difficult without Christmas, who led the A-10 in scoring each of the last three seasons and finished last year averaging 19.5 points per game en route to an Honorable All-American selection. He became the fourth player in school history to score 2,000 points, while also setting school records for 3-pointers made in a season and in a career.
Olmos and Inge, along with Christmas, provided nearly half of Temple’s points last season. Olmos finished fourth in scoring, third in rebounding and second in blocks. Inge led the team in assists and was second in steals.
“When your offense didn’t work, you could always count on [Christmas] to rise up at 25 feet and shoot a 3, and he had a pretty good chance of making it. We don’t necessarily have that luxury this year,” Dunphy said.
Dunphy envisions this year’s offense as more of a group effort expected to be led by Ryan Brooks and Lavoy Allen.
The team named Brooks a team captain this season, along with fellow senior guard Luis Guzman, and Brooks said he is ready for a bigger role.
“It’s what I signed up for. I knew this time would come,” Brooks said. “Now that’s it here, I’m ready to take full advantage of it. I believed I prepared to the fullest and the best of my abilities, and I’m ready to go.
“We try to push these guys every day, motivate them every day and let them know that once we hit the floor for the game, it’s going to be a battle every night,” he said.
Brooks was one of three Owls to start all 34 games last season. He finished third on the team in scoring with 10.6 points per game, and his 41 percent success rate from behind the 3-point line was good for fourth in the conference.
“I think he is ready emotionally and mentally,” Dunphy said of Brooks. “But that’s his role. He’s got to provide a great deal of leadership for us on and off the court.”
Although Brooks recorded his first career double-double in Temple’s upset win against No. 8 Tennessee and shut down Arizona State’s James Harden – a lottery pick in the June NBA Draft – in the NCAA Tournament in March, Brooks said he cannot be complacent with his game.
“What I’ve done in the past is in the past, and I’m ready to focus on this year,” he said. “I made an emphasis more on getting to the basket now and being more aggressive, putting pressure on the defense. That’s definitely something that I think will help my overall game and not put pressure on me shooting so many 3s.”
It’s already been a busy and productive first two years for Allen as he prepares for his third season in the Owls’ starting lineup.
As a freshman, Allen started all but two games and averaged 8.1 points per game and 5.7 rebounds per game. He also led the team in blocks, which helped earn him a spot on the A-10 All-Rookie Team.
In his second season, Allen led the team in rebounding and blocked shots, while finishing second on the team behind Christmas with 10.9 points per game. Allen finished that season strong, with nine of his 14 double-doubles coming in Temple’s final 14 games.
“He’s entering his third year as a starter in a Division I program, and his first two years he went to the NCAA Tournament,” Dunphy said. “So, I don’t know what more you could ask for.”
But Dunphy admits his expectations are even higher for Allen’s junior season.
“He has a lot of pressure coming from me to do even better offensively,” he said. “He’s had a terrific first two years. He’s been a starter for the last two years on two Atlantic 10 Championship teams. There’s a lot expected of him.”
Allen, who was named to the preseason All-Conference First Team, said he doesn’t feel any added stress, though.
“I don’t really feel pressure. I know what I have to do,” Allen said. “I’ve been in the weight room a lot, working out a lot more than I usually have. I’m definitely confident this year.”
Opportunity is the word this season. Brooks and Allen paid their dues, produced when they were called upon, and now, they are the faces of the program.
Pete Dorchak can be reached at email@example.com.