It’s tough to tell where things are going to lead. With a stream of players being shuffled in and out of the men’s basketball program, coach John Chaney has kept things stable.
The David Hawkins era is over, which leaves Chaney bereft of any players with NCAA Tournament experience.
“That’s the priority right now,” junior forward Antywane Robinson said. “I was used to winning in high school and the tradition behind Temple is that they get to the tournament a lot, so I expected to get there my freshman year and I didn’t. Then my sophomore year I thought we were going to turn it around and we didn’t.”
But it seems concentrating on a bid to the Big Dance is a bit premature.
“Everybody thinks they’re going 32-0 at the beginning of the season,” assistant coach Bill Ellerbee said. “You try to be as realistic as you can, and as optimistic as you can.”
Chaney has shuffled in 14 different players in the last three years. With all the new faces, developing some chemistry would be helpful.
There are four newcomers to the squad, two of which that have already earned a spot in the starting lineup: Freshman guard Mark Tyndale and sophomore forward Wayne Marshall.
The core remains with Robinson, junior guard Mardy Collins and junior center Keith Butler. While Robinson and Butler are starters, Chaney has been disappointed in their development. Both are enigmatic and have yet to find their identities on the court.
Due to the failed development of Mario Taybron last year, Collins is back at the point. Prior to coming to Temple, Collins had never played the position before, but here on North Broad Street it’s become his calling.
“It threw us off a bit, because we were without a true point guard,” said Robinson on the loss of Taybron. “But Mardy had to come back and play point again and he did an excellent job.”
Collins did struggle with his shooting early last season and leveled off at 37 percent, but what Chaney really needs is for him to set up the offense.
“Mentally I would say he has improved a great deal,” Chaney said. “[He’s better at] directing an offense, understanding to look four or five times and knowing when to take it on his own when the play is broken. Now, whether he’s going to be consistent hitting his shots, that’s a different story.”
His shooting could improve with a stronger presence down low. Sophomore forward Wayne Marshall appears to be the missing link that Chaney has been waiting for. A Philadelphia native who graduated from Martin Luther King High School, he missed all of last year due to academics. His impact could be worth the wait.
“He has more savvy as a big man than anyone that I’ve ever had here,” Chaney said. “He’s smart in terms of helping other players get open. He has patience and he is perhaps the smartest big guy we’ve ever had.
“I’m just asking more of him. We don’t have a lot of good shooters on this ball club. He’s a fast learner.”
One of the first players off the bench will be sophomore guard Dustin Salisbery. Chances are he and Tyndale will switch off and on as the starters. Salisbery was mercurial as a freshman averaging 7.0 ppg. Chaney’s been pleased with his transition coming into this season.
“I really don’t know how hard I can push him, in terms of playing hard up and down the floor,” said Chaney, in regards to Salisbery’s health. He went through a hernia operation this summer and is still recovering. “He’s not the kind of guy that will tell me, because he wants to play, so he’s not going to tell me when he isn’t feeling well.”
The losses of guard Tyreek Byard (academics) and Michael Blackshear (discipline) hurt the Owls for experience. The other freshmen, Chris Clark and DaShone Kirkendoll, will see spot playing time and learn from the bench as Chaney barks out his instructions.
Jason Haslam can be reached at email@example.com.
Cutout photos of Dustin Salisbery (3) by Natalie Nigito