Temple women’s basketball fills vital roles in starting lineup

Temple women’s basketball relied heavily on three key starters last season, but with two transfers and seven incoming freshmen, Temple’s depth has grown.

During the 2020-21 season, Temple University women’s basketball relied heavily on their big three to produce scoring. 

Graduate student forward Mia Davis, junior forward Alexa Williamson and freshman guard Jasha Clinton all averaged at least 12 points per game last season. The three of them scored 71 percent of Temple’s total points last year. 

The Owls’ scoring imbalance was exposed in The American Athletic Conference Tournament against Tulane University last season, where Williamson, Davis and Clinton scored 59 of Temple’s 73 points, and only two other Owls scored. 

With nine players added to the roster, including graduate student guards Jalynn Holmes and Jiselle Thomas, freshman forward Kyra Wood and freshman guard Tiarra East, the Owls are hoping to finally have proper depth complimenting their big three.

“We have a lot of new faces, and I think every single one of them will be able to contribute this season,” said head coach Tonya Cardoza. 

Temple struggled with lack of depth on the bench last season, leading to starters being overworked and making sloppy mistakes at the end of games. 

Clinton led the guards in scoring with 14.4 points per game, twice the amount of points graduate student guard Emani Mayo and sophomore guard Asonah Alexander scored per game. 

The Owls have brought in two transfers who hope to contribute to scoring right away. Holmes and Thomas will be in the starting lineup on opening night against St. Francis University on Nov. 9, Cardoza said. 

Holmes transferred from Norfolk State University, where she averaged 12.6 points per game. 

Thomas started her collegiate career at High Point University, but quickly transferred to Florida International University in 2020-21 because High Point wasn’t the right fit, she said.

In her last season at Florida International, Thomas averaged 17.5 points per game. 

“I had a good season there, but it was just time for something new,” Thomas said. 

Thomas chose Temple because she wanted to work with the coaching staff and enjoyed the city location. Despite transferring to two schools before Temple, Thomas always had North Broad in the back of her mind as a place to play, she added. 

Supplemental scoring isn’t the only thing Thomas hopes to add to the Owls this season. She is also bringing her experience and maturity to a young team, Thomas said.

“I bring a lot of energy,” she added. “I’m always working hard, and I think that rubs off on other girls.” 

Cardoza believes Thomas and Holmes will contribute with their ability to finish around the rim and use their aggressive force to get to the basket, she said. 

However, the Owls will also look to their younger players for depth on the bench this year. Wood and East will also play a key role in the team rotation, Cardoza added. 

Besides blocking shots and grabbing rebounds, as a 6-foot-3-inch forward, Wood is able to drive into the paint and gives Temple a solid post player. With her physicality and frame, Wood could help take the heavy-scoring burden off Davis and Williamson.

She is also using her freshman year to learn as much as she can about Temple’s team culture while she adjusts to the differences between highschool and college basketball. 

East, on the other hand, is one of the newcomers who hopes to fill minutes at the guard position. She was the 65th ranked player in her recruiting class, according to ESPN. 

During her junior year at Butler Traditional High School in Louisville, Kentucky, East averaged 14 points and six rebounds per game, and helped lead her team to win the district championship. 

East is a super athletic player who has a lot of mobility, Cardoza said.

East described her skillset as a guard who likes to score at all three levels: driving to the basket, the midrange and shooting threes, she said. 

This will be a helpful addition for the Owls, given Clinton was usually the only go-to guard who could, effectively, be a focal point in the offense last year. 

“I had seen the players from last year, and thought I can really work with this team,” East said.

The hope is these new additions and others will help advance the team to a postseason berth.

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