But for junior center Sergio Olmos of the men’s basketball team, it’s beginning to feel a lot more like home.
Agreeing to come to Temple without ever stepping foot on campus, Olmos was understandably quiet and reserved when he first arrived on North Broad Street in 2005. Playing for legendary coach John Chaney, Olmos’ rookie campaign with the Owls was more about getting used to campus life than simply basketball. Having to deal with 5:30 a.m. practices and a new culture, language, people and environment, Olmos struggled his freshman season, only playing in 21 games and averaging less than a point per contest.
“I didn’t really know anything about Temple, about Philadelphia. So I was very surprised,” Olmos said. “I was getting used to university life, college life. I still didn’t get English, I knew the basic stuff. So it was more getting used to [life] here.”
But as his sophomore year began, complete with a new coach, Fran Dunphy, and an improved role on the team, Olmos started to acclimate himself better to his surroundings. His English improved, he became more comfortable and relaxed,
more confident and poised.
The one thing that never needed changing, however, was his character – something Dunphy picked up right away when he first met Olmos.
“The off-the-court stuff is what impressed me, he was a good student, a real good person, a very mature guy, so it was nice to coach somebody like Serge,” Dunphy said. “As for on the court, he was a guy that had some potential, but he was a year away from helping us.”
And while that year had its high points, such as Olmos’ 11-point, 11-rebound performance against Long Beach State, it also had its low points. Olmos was often in foul trouble, or had to come out of the game because he was getting easily pushed around inside. Knowing this, his teammates are roughing Olmos up in practice this season, throwing elbows, knees and hands in his face, trying to prepare for the physicality of a real game.
“In practice, [we beat up on him] a lot,” junior guard Dionte Christmas said. “He gets mad, but so what? We beat up on him every day. And the coaches don’t call any fouls, they just tell us to play through it, and I think that’s translating onto the court right now. Serge is definitely doing a good job in the post this season.”
Starting all 22 contests and averaging 21.7 minutes per game, Olmos is having his finest year as an Owl. He’s staying on the court more, for longer periods of time and is taking the abuse of other teams’ elite centers.
Playing a larger role on the team is something Olmos can’t help but be happy about.
“Definitely, you got to enjoy it more when you play games like Xavier, St. Joe’s, you got to love being out there on the court,” he said. “There’s more pressure with it, but basketball players, that’s what [we] want, that’s what [we] like.” ask for the ball or nothing, he just wanted to play his role. Now Serge, he gets mad, he talks out when he doesn’t get the ball in the post.”
And at the same time, his teammates appreciate the enthusiasm and encouragement Olmos has for them.
“It not only helps the team, but it helps me a lot,” Christmas added. “When I know my big man has a lot of confidence in me, hitting shots, saying he needs me to hit shots for us to win. That not only gives the team confidence, but it gives me a lot of confidence.”
Todd Orodenker can be reached at Todd.firstname.lastname@example.org.