Seniors stopped era of mediocrity

Temple will build on their contributions next season.

After three straight Atlantic Ten Conference Championships and three straight exits in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Temple coach Fran Dunphy has to have an even higher goal for future seasons.

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Sure, winning conference championships are great, especially when nobody expects you to win them. But at a certain point, they are no longer enough. Take that as a sign of how far Dunphy has taken this program since he took over four years ago. Back then, merely making the NCAA Tournament was enough for Temple. Now, both the players and the fan base expect more from the Owls.

I said earlier in the year that the Owls needed to reach the Sweet 16 to officially return to a John Chaney-era level. Well, when the men’s basketball team lost to Cornell, 78-65, last Friday afternoon, the pursuit of that goal took a step back. It has merely been postponed, however, as next year’s squad, likely led by junior forward Lavoy Allen and sophomore guard Juan Fernandez, will look to get the Owls past the first round of the Tournament for the first time since 2001, when the Cherry and White went to the Elite Eight.

Unfortunately, two of Temple’s leaders on and off the court, senior guards Ryan Brooks and Luis Guzman, will not be back next year to help. That being said, their hard work the past four seasons has laid the foundation for the future of the Owls.

Their careers have been well-documented. Brooks, a near walk-on, was Dunphy’s first recruit at North Broad Street and went on to become one of the greatest Temple defenders of all time while also scoring more than 1,000-career points. Guzman, Chaney’s last recruit, stayed committed to the Owls despite Chaney’s retirement and went on to start 69 games for the Cherry and White during the course of his career.

While Guzman started his second year, he lost a large portion of his role during his junior year before ending on a high note this season. Brooks did not receive a starting job until his junior year. Neither saw the amount of playing time they would have liked early on in their careers. In spite of this, they carried themselves off the court in the exact manner Dunphy wants from his players.

It would have been nice to send the captains of the squad out with a deep run in the Tournament. Instead, they will have to rely on the memories of their accomplishments in their next careers, whether they continue playing basketball on a professional level in the United States or overseas or whether they lead a pedestrian life.

After struggling as a team during the 2006-2007 season, the Owls went on to win their three straight aforementioned A-10 titles. The success, which Guzman and Brooks contributed immensely to, helped Dunphy secure recruits like forward/center Anthony Lee from Eustis, Fla., and guard/forward Aaron Brown from Newark, N.J., who will both join the Owls next year. Both players chose Temple over offers from bigger schools, something that can be at least slightly attributed to the Owls’ recent success.

Next March, the Owls could very well be in a similar position to the one they were in this year. Hopefully, the result will be different, with the Owls making some noise in the Tournament. While Guzman and Brooks’ names, along with walk-on senior forward Rafael DeLeon’s, will not appear on the roster, there is no denying that they helped bring Temple out of a streak of mediocrity. The Cherry and White are once again relevant when spring comes around every year. Getting past that first round is the tricky part.

Kyle Gauss can be reached at kyle.gauss@temple.edu.

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