Temple guard Stanford chooses home city to “put on” for Philadelphia

Temple Men’s Basketball’s Zion Stanford had 11 offers at the collegiate level, but he decided to stay and represent the city he’s called home.

Averaging 11.7 points per game, freshman Zion Stanford has been a solid offensive spark for Temple. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple Men’s Basketball lost six key pieces of its rotation entering the 2023 season, and its first offseason with head coach Adam Fisher was filled with questions. The Owls blocked out the noise and came away with a convincing game one win against Maryland Eastern Shore.

Freshman guard Zion Stanford was a major reason why the Owls pulled off a win in the season opener. He had 14 points and looked like he belonged on the floor in his collegiate debut.

Stanford spoke at the postgame press conference with Fisher and guard Jahlil White, where he was composed, but understood the gravity of what he did, talking passionately about what it meant to perform at his hometown school.

“It’s good being able to make my family proud,” Stanford said. “It’s definitely an honor to put on for Philadelphia.”

For Stanford, representing his city was the most important factor in choosing Temple last spring. Now, he’s making his impact as part of the Owls’ new-look program.

Stanford grew up in the Haddington-Carroll Park area of West Philadelphia, just an 18 minute drive from where he played high school ball at West Catholic Preparatory High School. 

Long before his days at West Catholic, a six-year-old Stanford participated in the National Basketball Players Association’s Grassroots Program in Overbrook. He instantly fell in love with the game. 

Basketball was easily accessible for Stanford when he was growing up. He could play whenever he pleased because his family had a hoop. When he wanted competition, he played on courts at the Shepard Recreation Center in West Philly, competing against players like former New Hampshire Technical Institute forward Donovan Rodriguez or former Saint Joseph’s guard Dahmir Bishop.

As Stanford matured, he participated in various local recreational basketball leagues which led to an invitation to play with Philly Triple Threat, an AAU basketball team.

Stanford averaged 18.5 points and six rebounds per game in his senior season at West Catholic and led his team to their first state championship in school history. Stanford’s performance resulted in him becoming a sought after recruit, earning 11 NCAA offers.

Stanford emphasized the location of schools as he considered his options, wanting to stay close to home. Philadelphia helped make Stanford the man and basketball player he is today, so he wanted to continue his basketball career in Philly and “put on” for his city. 

Stanford’s pride for being a Philadelphian fuels his desire to show out for the city, something that has become extremely important to him. 

“That was really the main reason he wanted to stay home,” said Stanford’s father, Arthur Stanford. “[He wants to] put on for his friends, family and everyone that’s around him. He has a lot of confidence when he sees a lot of familiar faces, it’s good for him.”

Stanford believes Temple’s history and location makes it the primary basketball school in Philadelphia, and he knew he wanted to “put on” for the city by becoming an Owl.

After mulling over all his offers, Stanford committed to Temple in September 2022 under former head coach Aaron McKie.

However, Temple’s 2022-23 season fell short of expectations, and McKie stepped down in March after four seasons as head coach. The program went through a period of uncertainty, and Stanford kept a close eye on the situation as it played out.

“I was concerned a little bit,” Stanford said. “I didn’t know who was stepping up as head coach.”

When Temple hired Adam Fisher on March 29, Stanford discussed his next steps with his father and former high school coach Miguel Bocachica. When Stanford asked for his opinion, Bocachica mentioned he was a big fan of Fisher and thought Fisher’s reputation as a people person would be “great” for Stanford. With Bocachica’s input, Stanford assured Fisher of his commitment.

Stanford could have decommitted and “put on” for the city at Saint Joseph’s or Drexel but he chose to stay committed to Temple because loyalty was important to him. Stanford is not one to go back on his words, as he will honor any prior commitments he has made, he said.

“We grew up on staying solid,” Stanford said. “We don’t jump around places, especially if we know the place is good.”

That value was instilled in Stanford from an early age. Arthur Stanford mentioned how his son watched their family operate through different challenges and circumstances growing up, which taught Zion to stay loyal to those around him. 

When McKie stepped down and Stanford’s future seemed uncertain, Stanford was fully equipped to handle the ups and downs of his decision making process.

By “staying solid” to Temple, Stanford got his first opportunity to represent his city in the aforementioned game against UMES.

Stanford contributed a 12-point second half that helped put the game out of reach. The freshman looked poised, especially around the rim, converting on 70 percent of his attempts despite the new competition.

“Playing against high school competition, it carries on,” Stanford said. “It’s the same, just next level, a little bit faster.” 

Fisher sat at the podium for his postgame press conference following the 20-point win and praised the lone freshman on his roster.

“I love Zion,” Fisher said. “He’s a guy that wanted to be here. He wanted to be a part of this. He asked a lot of questions. He has that personality. He has a chance to be really good.”

However, Stanford still makes those freshman mistakes. During the same press conference, Fisher shared a funny story about Stanford that made everyone in the Al Shrier Media Room laugh.

Zion Stanford going through his free throw routine during Temple’s Big 5 battle against Drexel University. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

While the rest of the team prepared for pre-game shootaround at The Liacouras Center, Stanford was across the street at Temple’s practice facilities, The Donald and Nancy Resnick Court in McGonigle Hall, believing that’s where shootaround took place.

“We were like, ‘What are you doing?’” Fisher said. “He rushed [to The Liacouras Center], and we said, ‘Take a deep breath, we’re not going to start without you.’”

Bocachica even knew the story and said it was very “Zion-like” and embodied who Stanford is as a person: “a little goofball.”

Despite his hiccup, Stanford feels like he has adjusted well to Division I basketball, and he credits his coaches, parents and teammates for helping him. Each group he mentioned agrees with his sentiment. 

“He’s always been as strong as an ox,” Arthur Stanford said. “It wasn’t going to be much of a challenge physically. Mentally, he’s pretty well rounded. When those two come together, it makes it much easier to step on this level and be comfortable.”

Five games into his collegiate career, Stanford has established himself as a key contributor in Fisher’s rotation, averaging 22 minutes and nine points per game, which both lead all non-starters. Stanford is routinely the first player off the bench, and matched his career-high 14 points in a 77-76 loss to Ole Miss when given the opportunity to start in place of the injured White on Nov. 22. 

Stanford has noticeably progressed as the season continues. His consistent offensive presence has helped the Owls start their season 3-2. But it has been Stanford’s defensive efforts that have caught the attention of his teammates.

“He’s definitely matured,” said Temple forward Sam Hofman. “When he brings intensity on defense, he makes great things happen.”

Although Stanford did not mention a specific mentor figure, he spoke highly of Hysier Miller, the only other player from Philadelphia on the roster.

“Our relationship got stronger this year,” Stanford said. “We talked a lot about how things go [at Temple] because he played here for three years. He’s a good mentor to me.”

Their relationship isn’t just basketball. The pair are roommates and see each other every day. They talk about all sorts of topics along with their upbringings, creating a bond between the two.

Stanford has already experienced some of the ups and downs of a Division I athlete, but his strong support system, consisting of his family, teammates and coaches, has tremendously aided his transition. Stanford’s desire to “put on” for Philadelphia may be his ultimate motivator. 

“It’s a pride thing,” Stanford said. “Every time you play, it’s for the city you grew up in, so you want to put on for your city at all times.”

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.