It was a big moment for the Point Pleasant Beach High School player, who had narrowed his list down to three schools, one of those being Temple. It was also a big moment for the Owls, whose recruiting efforts had not produced ideal results. However, if Uhl decided to join Obi Enechionyia in Temple’s recruiting class, the results would be pretty good so far.
Unfortunately for Temple, the hat sported the wrong bird logo. Uhl committed to play for the University of Iowa Hawkeyes during an interview with Adam Zagoria on the set of “SportsNet New York,” becoming the latest high-profile recruit to seriously consider, but ultimately not choose, Temple.
These problems have plagued coach Fran Dunphy and his staff for the recruiting classes of 2013 and 2014. After a very good 2012 class that produced Quenton DeCosey, Daniel Dingle and Devontae Watson, the team’s recruiting results have tailed off — not a good sign as the team enters the American Athletic Conference.
Temple’s 2013 recruiting class consists of two three-star recruits, Josh Brown and Mark Williams. There was originally a third member of this class, Camden Catholic graduate Kyle Green, but Green withdrew from the university as both a student and an athlete in August.
Enechionyia is the only 2014 player to have committed to Temple so far. Players like Uhl, Massachusetts commit Rashaan Holloway and the Villanova-bound duo of Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges have all reportedly been heavily pursued by the Owls, only to choose another school. The same thing happened with multiple 2013 players, most notably with North Philadelphia native Rysheed Jordan, a five-star recruit who chose to attend St. John’s.
“Rysheed is the most skilled player I have ever coached and that includes Baron Davis at UCLA,” Red Storm coach Steve Lavin said at the team’s media day. “This is a special player.”
Brown, Williams and Enechionyia are all talented players who starred for their high school teams last season. Both Williams and Enechionyia averaged double-digit points and rebounds last year at Montrose Christian (Md.) and St. James (Md.) respectively, and Brown earned The Star Ledger first team all-state honors for his play at St. Anthony’s in New Jersey. However, the group does not match up to recruiting results of other American teams in the past two years.
Memphis’ 2013 class sports six players, all of whom have at least four-star rankings on Rivals. Cincinnati got a commitment from Jermaine Lawrence, who is No. 26 on Rivals’ Top 100 2013 recruits. UConn has signed multiple top-ranked recruits in the past few years despite a postseason ban last season. Even Southern Methodist, a team that hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1993 and has a 71-89 record in the past five seasons, has recruited well recently. Emmanuel Mudiay, who Rivals has ranked the second-best player in the class of 2014, committed to play for Larry Brown’s Mustangs.
Even if Uhl had chosen to come to North Philadelphia, Temple’s recruiting results would be more in line with other teams in the conference, such as Central Florida, South Florida and Houston — schools without strong basketball traditions. Temple should be recruiting more successfully than those schools.
There are many possible reasons why Temple struggles to recruit top talent. Maybe Dunphy’s old-school style and hesitance to play freshmen scare recruits away. Maybe players view Temple as a mid-major school and want to play on a bigger stage. Maybe top recruits are already looking past college to the pros and would rather play for a program that gets more players in the NBA.
Whatever the reason is, Dunphy and his staff need to adjust their strategy and get recruits of the same caliber that the team’s new rivals are. The Owls have a rich history and an opportunity to be one of the premier programs of The American. One of the first steps that need to be taken is an improvement in recruiting.
Evan Cross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @EvanCross.