Top 10 sports stories of 2017

Former defensive lineman and linebacker Haason Reddick poses on the red carpet at the top of the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art before Thursday's NFL Draft. EVAN EASTERLING | THE TEMPLE NEWS

1. Arizona Cardinals select Haason Reddick in the first round of the NFL Draft

The Arizona Cardinals used the 13th pick of the 2017 NFL Draft to select former Temple defensive lineman and linebacker Haason Reddick, who became the fourth first-round pick in Temple history and first since 2011. Reddick’s draft stock rose after his Senior Bowl performance in January. During his senior season, Reddick, a former walk-on, led the Football Bowl Subdivision with 22.5 tackles for loss, which tied a Temple single-season record. Reddick, who plays for former Temple coach Bruce Arians with the Cardinals, has 32 tackles through 15 games this season.

2. Women’s basketball team reaches first NCAA Tournament since 2011

Coach Tonya Cardoza led the Owls to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2011 to cap off the 2015-16 season. The Owls lost, 71-70, to the University of Oregon at Duke University’s Cameron Indoor Stadium in March. Feyonda Fitzgerald’s potential game-winning shot at the buzzer got blocked to end her final college game.

Several Owls accomplished milestones during the 2016-17 season. Fitzgerald graduated as Temple’s second-leading scorer and all-time assists leader. She also became the fourth Temple player to be selected in the WNBA Draft and the fourth to earn All-American distinction. Cardoza became the Owls’ all-time wins leader by passing her predecessor and former college teammate Dawn Staley. Temple also earned its first national ranking since the 2005-06 season. In November, Cardoza signed a contract extension that will keep her at Temple through the 2021-22 season.

3. MacWilliams’ contract not renewed after 18 seasons

The university opted not to renew former men’s soccer coach David MacWilliams’ contract after 18 seasons. For the fourth time in five seasons, MacWilliams led his team to the American Athletic Conference tournament. Temple lost, 4-0, to a nationally ranked Southern Methodist team in November to end its season. The Owls didn’t score a goal in any of their four American Athletic Conference tournament appearances.

Athletic Director Pat Kraft said in a university statement that he sought a “fresh voice” to lead the team. He hopes to have found that voice in Brian Rowland, a former University of Maryland assistant coach tabbed to replace MacWilliams on Dec. 22.

4. Fred Turoff steps down as gymnastics coach

Fred Turoff coached Temple’s Division I program from 1976-2014 and continued to coach when gymnastics lost its varsity status and became a club sport. He is beginning to transition the program to Jesse Kitzen-Abelson’s leadership. Turoff competed for Temple from 1966-69 and in the 1970 World Championships. He is a member of the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame.

Kitzen-Abelson competed under Turoff’s leadership from 2007-11 before coaching in South Africa for five years. Kitzen-Abelson wants to make a business model similar to the University of Washington’s program and recruit gymnasts to fill out the roster each year.

5. Temple completes first season under Geoff Collins

Coach Geoff Collins inherited Temple’s program after back-to-back 10-win seasons under former coach Matt Rhule. With limited time to recruit high school players and transfers after leaving the University of Florida, Collins secured a class in February of 16 high school recruits and graduate transfer Mike Jones, who started every game at cornerback. His recruiting trips were aided by a helicopter supplied by a university donor.

Collins had to replace four-year starter Phillip Walker at quarterback. Tight ends and special teams coach Ed Foley said in the preseason that if Temple had a two-year starter returning at quarterback, the Owls would have been predicted to repeat as American Athletic Conference champions. Temple reached its third straight bowl game, which granted the program the ability to hold extra practices to develop its younger players. The Owls won the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl on Dec. 21 to win their first bowl since 2011 and close the season with a 7-6 record. The day before the Owls’ win against Florida International University in St. Petersburg, Florida, the program added 24 players during the early signing period. Another player signed the next day to bring the total up to 25.

6. Dawn Staley returns to Temple

Former women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley coached at Temple for the first time since 2008 when her University of South Carolina squad came to the Liacouras Center on Dec. 21. Staley led her Gamecocks team, which is ranked No. 4 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, to a victory. Leading up to the game, Staley, who grew up in North Philadelphia, received recognition at a Philadelphia 76ers game and had a portion of Diamond Street near the Hank Gathers Recreation Center named after her. Staley, a three-time Olympic gold medalist as a player and a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, is second on the Owls’ all-time wins list. Coach Tonya Cardoza, who played with Staley at the University of Virginia in the late 1980s and early 1990s, passed Staley last season.

7. Women’s basketball program honors all-time great

Candice Dupree, who played for Temple from 2002-06, had her No. 4 jersey retired on Dec. 21 at the Liacouras Center when the Owls faced the University of South Carolina. Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley, who coached Dupree at Temple, got to see the Owls’ third all-time leading scorer honored. After Dupree’s senior season, the Chicago Sky selected her in the first round of the 2006 WNBA Draft. She is a six-time WNBA All-Star, 2014 WNBA champion and ranks in the top 10 of points and rebounds in league history.

8. Football program moves on from Phillip Walker at quarterback

The departure of Phillip Walker, who graduated as the program’s all-time leader in completions, passing yards, touchdown passes and total offense, left Temple to search for a new starting quarterback. The battle started in the spring with redshirt freshman Anthony Russo, redshirt sophomore Logan Marchi, redshirt junior Frank Nutile and freshman Todd Centeio, who joined the program as an early enrollee in January 2017, as the leading candidates.

Marchi took every offensive snap in the Owls’ loss to the Fighting Irish and started the first seven games of the season. Marchi completed 55.5 percent of his passes and threw eight interceptions and nine touchdown passes.

He will transfer and hopes to enroll at his new school for Spring 2018. Had Marchi not transferred, Temple would have entered the spring season with five scholarship quarterbacks for the first time in program history.

Nutile played in relief against South Florida and East Carolina before making his first career start against Army West Point on Oct. 21. Nutile finished the season at quarterback in place of Marchi, who suffered an injury that kept him sidelined. Nutile had a 2-1 record in his first three starts and finished the season as the MVP of the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl on Dec. 21 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Nutile threw for 254 yards and a touchdown and ran for a score during the Owls’ win against Florida International University.

With Marchi’s expected departure, Nutile will be one of four quarterbacks in spring training camp. Trad Beatty, a lefty quarterback from the Ben Lippen School in South Carolina, will join the program as an early enrollee in January 2018.

9. Volleyball coach is longtime sneaker aficionado

As a child in Germany, Bakeer Ganesharatnam stayed up late to watch NBA games. It sparked an interest in sneaker collecting. Temple’s volleyball coach has owned the signature shoes of NBA All-Stars like Jason Kidd, Charles Barkley and Penny Hardaway. Ganesharatnam actually wears the shoes he buys rather than collecting for the sake of collecting, he said.

10. Former club hockey goalie tastes NHL, former player moves to coaching, team fighting for playoff spot

Eric Semborski, a former goaltender for the club hockey team from 2011-15, had a chance to suit up with two NHL teams during the 2016-17 season as an emergency backup.

Senior sport and recreation management major Kenny Orlando spent his first year of college at the State University of New York at Canton, where he suffered a career-altering concussion. He transferred to Temple for the 2015-16 season, but he never played a game in the next two years. Now, Orlando is the coach of Villanova’s club hockey team.

Orlando’s former teammates are fighting for a spot in the Eastern Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs. First-year coach Mark Spease wants his team to meet key offensive targets, like reaching 40 shots per game. Last season, Ben Auerbach emerged as the starting goaltender as a freshman and played reliably in net despite facing a high volume of shots.

This season, the Owls have been boosted by freshman forward Brendan Ondick, who entered early December leading the American Collegiate Hockey Association in points. The return of John Kumpf, a senior who didn’t play during the 2016-17 season, has added physicality to Temple’s style of play.

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