Wyatt turns historic playing career into director of player development role

The former Owl great wants to restore the program back to the glory days of Temple Men’s Basketball.

Former Temple basketball star Khalif Wyatt returns as director of player development to help restore the program's success. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Khalif Wyatt’s Temple career should have ended in 2013. His historic tenure appeared to close after the Owls’ heartbreaking loss to No. 1 Indiana in the NCAA Tournament Round of 32.

About a decade later, Adam Fisher was hired as Temple’s new head coach, and the former Penn State and Miami assistant wanted someone with Temple ties to be his director of player development.

That list started and ended with Wyatt, Fisher said. After the pair had a chance to speak about the role in April, Wyatt’s hiring was all but official.

“In April, Coach Fisher had got the job, and he wanted whoever he was going to hire for this position to be a Temple guy,” Wyatt said. “We didn’t know each other in the past. I was just one of the guys that came up. It wasn’t really an interview; we just talked about life for 45 minutes.”

Ten years after his playing career and just after securing his Master’s degree from West Chester, Wyatt is back to help lead the newest generation of Temple players toward the success he had.

Wyatt grew up in Norristown, Pennsylvania, just outside Philadelphia, and knew of Temple’s prestige as the seventh-winningest program in college basketball history. When his Temple journey began in 2009, the Owls had won two straight Atlantic 10 tournaments to go with back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, but exited in the first round both times.

When then-head coach Fran Dunphy offered him a spot on the roster, Wyatt jumped at the chance to play for his hometown team.

“Temple has a tremendous history of having a good basketball program,” Wyatt said. “Just being able to be a part of that was special to me then and is special to me now. I’ve made some bonds that have lasted a lifetime with my teammates, even students.”

Wyatt quickly made a name for himself during his sophomore season after not playing much as a freshman. The kid from Norristown was named Big 5 Most Improved Player after scoring 10 points a game off the bench for the Owls. 

Wyatt found his groove by the time he was a junior, bumping his scoring average up from 10 to 17 points per game. 

In his senior season, Wyatt and fellow senior Scootie Randall were key pieces on a Temple team that went back to the NCAA Tournament. Wyatt went head-to-head with Indiana, headlined by NBA star Victor Oladipo. Even in the six-point loss, Wyatt’s 31-point performance gained national attention.

After his Temple career concluded, Wyatt played overseas in various European and Asian leagues for nine seasons and hopes to use that experience to connect with his players as a role model.

“He was an outstanding basketball player, but more importantly, he’s a great person and someone our guys can learn from,” said Chris Clark, assistant coach and former Temple player. “It’s developing the whole person, not just the basketball player. Khalif embodies that.”

The respect Wyatt gets as a role model is more important than the respect he got for his playing career, he said. He feels it reflects his deepest connection to Temple, one that transcended the hardwood.

Wyatt credits that respect to Dunphy, who had a serious impact on Wyatt during his playing days. 

Their relationship had a rocky start, with the pair butting heads about Wyatt’s level of maturity, leading to arguments between the two. Despite the early growing pains, Wyatt grew to see Dunphy as a father figure over time, he said.

“[Dunphy] brought me in and has been a mentor to me,” Wyatt said. “He picks up every time I call. Our relationship has been stronger after graduation than during my four years here. After I got out of school, I was a little more mature, and I understood better some of the things he was tryna teach me.”

Wyatt’s relationship with Dunphy is a baseline for how he wants to connect with his current players. Wyatt is always willing to talk, no matter what his players need.

Fisher has prioritized alumni involvement since arriving at Temple, whether they come to practice or join his staff. He held true to that by retaining Clark, who played from 2004-08, and hiring Temple standouts, like Wyatt and Lynn Greer.

“I think it’s important to understand the history of Temple Basketball,” Fisher said. “The more former players, former coaches we can bring and share their stories to our student athletes, to our staff, we don’t know it all. I’ve known Khalif for a little bit. He came in, we spoke a few times, and his values aligned with ours.”

Temple has not made the NCAA Tournament since 2019, a trend that is expected to continue this season. The lack of tournament success is new to Wyatt, as someone who qualified every year of his career.

Even though the program is rebuilding, Wyatt is excited to be part of a new era of Temple Basketball and hopes to restore the status of the program.

“When I was here as a player, we expected to be in the tournament,” Wyatt said. “It wasn’t even a goal; it was an expectation. This unit is just getting back to being confident, who they are as a player and who they are as a program.”

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