Although they play the same position, centers Sergio Olmos and Nehemiah Ingram of the men’s basketball team are as different as they come on the basketball court.
Olmos has a European-style game, equipped with a soft offensive touch and disdain for contact in the paint. Ingram, on the other hand, relishes intense and sometimes-bruising play.
Differences aside, the two big men are favorites of the home crowd whenever the team plays at the Liacouras Center.
The Owls’ faithful have fallen head-over-heels in love with the frontcourt tandem. The fans let out a roar at the sight of the reserves heading over to the scorer’s table to check into the game.
And if Olmos and Ingram don’t enter the game in a timely-enough fashion, the fans – especially those seated in the student section – begin chants.
At Saturday’s game against Duquesne, sophomore Tom Wexler said the popularity of the two reserves begins with their performances off the court.
“[Sergio and Nehemiah] are two of the nicest guys you will ever meet,” Wexler said. “Whenever you see them walking around in the dorms or around campus, they always have a smile on their face. They are so personable … and that’s why everybody likes them.”
Senior forward Antywane Robinson said his teammates’ biggest contributions are in the locker room.
“Nehemiah always keeps things loose and is one of the comedians in the locker room,” Robinson said. “Sergio is really coming around, too. The language barrier was a problem at first, but now he jokes around and plays into things, too.”
With on-court contributions, the two players’ averages are slightly misleading. A senior, Ingram has averaged just fewer than nine minutes per game for his career. His career high for field goal attempts in a game is six.
In his freshman season, Olmos has started nine games and has found time in 17. A transfer student from Spain, Olmos has only registered three field goals all season, however, averaging 5.7 minutes per game.
Assistant coach Dan Leibovitz said the role the reserves play is an important one, though it isn’t usually reflected in the stat sheet.
“We spell their roles out for them,” he said. “We want them to play good defense for us and play the middle of our zone … and try to shut the basket down for us.”
In the Owls’ win over the Dukes, the frontcourt pair combined for one field goal and one rebound in 11 minutes. Ingram said he is more-than-satisfied with his role on the team, even though being a reserve for coach John Chaney is much tougher than it might appear.
“We only get one opportunity to get in the game and make something happen, because when we mess up, we’re coming out,” Ingram said. “But knowing this lets me go all out whenever I’m on the floor.”
Olmos has had to find ways to make the trans-global transition easier. After redshirting when he joined the team last spring, Olmos is in his first year of eligibility to play under Chaney.
Due to a team rule Olmos, along with other first-year players at Temple, is not allowed to speak to the media concerning the team.
For the European-born Olmos and Ingram, who last season was involved in a sticky incident in a game with Saint Joseph’s, fan support of the two players has been a good gesture, Leibovitz said.
“It’s nice that the fans are giving the guys confidence and making them feel comfortable on their home court,” Lebovitz said. “And with Sergio being so far from home, I’m sure he really appreciates it.”
Jeremy Drummond can be reached at email@example.com.