The women’s basketball team rewrote the record books this year with what was easily its most successful season ever.
The Owls raced through the Atlantic Ten Conference without stopping to take a breath. Nineteen wins later, they were repeat A-10 champs. Before coach Dawn Staley’s arrival in 2000, the team never had won an A-10 championship. Now, they are owners of three such titles in Staley’s five seasons.
Staley’s bunch continued to grab national attention with their 25-game win streak, which spanned from early December until the team’s 61-54 loss to Rutgers last Tuesday in the second round of NCAA Tournament. After the game, Staley said she believed the Owls earned as much respect in defeat as in victory.
“I know that although we lost the game, we gained some respect from the nation, from Rutgers, from anybody that tuned in,” Staley said of the loss, which was nationally televised.
Their four month long win streak more than doubled the program’s previous streak of 12, set in 1922. It thrust the Owls to a program-best 28 wins, versus only four losses.
What does this mean for Staley’s team in 2005-06? Well, it bodes extremely well for recruiting and could make Temple a perennial contender in the long run.
With no previous coaching experience, Staley didn’t know how to recruit when she took the reins in 2000. Prior to the Owls success, she relied on her name to draw players to Temple. Sophomore guard Fatima Maddox was one of them, transferring from New Mexico in January to play under Staley’s tutelage next season. Now Staley, having proved her coaching legitimacy, should have no problem bringing in the nation’s better recruits.
This year also helped the progress of the underclassmen. During the streak, the Owls beat opponents by an average of 12.4 points and posted seven 20-point wins. Such decisive wins helped Staley find time for the team’s five freshmen to make at least 20 appearances each.
But if their potential still doesn’t excite you, Candice Dupree’s should. The junior center just completed her most productive season, posting a team-high 16.3 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 2.2 steals. She also led the A-10 with 2.2 blocks per game. Statistics aren’t what separate Dupree from the pack; her moves in the post do that.
Dupree, who last week was named an all-America honorable mention, boasts a repertoire of moves that have garnered national attention from reputable coaches like Rutgers’ C. Vivian Stringer, Louisiana State’s Pokey Chatman, and Tennessee’s Pat Summit. Among her signature moves are a drop step jumper, a fake-left/go-right leaner that almost always draws contact, and a baby hook that most A-10 foes cannot counter.
Similar to men’s basketball coach John Chaney’s frontcourt of Keith Butler and Wayne Marshall, Staley might employ a twin-towers look in next season’s starting lineup. Staley groomed freshman center Lady Comfort into a formidable backup for Dupree, and adding Comfort to the regular rotation would only improve the A-10’s best frontcourt set that already includes Dupree and small forward Kamesha Hairston.
It almost seems like a travesty to look past the successful run of 2004-05 to the promise next season holds. But having laid the cornerstone of a national contender, the best is yet to come for Staley and the Owls.
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.