Young duo fuels team chemistry

Temple University men’s basketball guards redshirt-sophomore Damian Dunn and freshman Jeremiah Williams complement each other on and off the court.

Damian Dunn, left, a freshman guard, and Jeremiah Williams, right, a freshman guard, run down the court during the Owls' game against the University of Pennsylvania at the Liacouras Center on Dec. 4, 2021. | NOEL CHACKO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple University men’s basketball guards freshman Jeremiah Williams and redshirt-freshman Damian Dunn share a similar drive for success, which makes the camaraderie within the game come easily, Dunn said. 

Williams and Dunn have been roommates for the past two years, and each day they continue to translate their relationship onto the court, Dunn said.

“Our relationship off the court has really helped our chemistry on the court,” Dunn added. “Being able to read each other, knowing when to give each other space, when to cut off each other, when to drive, kick and find each other.”

The duo are a key reason Temple sits at 10-6 record and have gone on a three-game winning streak. In the past five games, Dunn is averaging 19.6 points, while Williams is averaging 6.2 assists. The two complement each other’s ability play after play. 

While Dunn and Williams were searching for a playstyle that worked for them, there was a deeper connection being formed between the two, Dunn said. 

“Just being able to talk to him, laugh with him, grow with him and learn with him,” Dunn said. “We have a bond on the court that shows and we are going to keep working at it.”

From watching YouTube videos together to talking about their personal struggles, the pair have formed a connection stemming from brief interactions to what is now a firm friendship, Williams said.  

“We just clicked,” Williams said. “Us being roommates really skyrocketed it.”

Dunn has hit two key shots down the stretch for the Owls in their recent games against East Carolina University (11-6, 2-3 The American Athletic Conference) on Jan. 8 and the University of Central Florida (11-5, 3-3 The American) on Jan. 5, which secured two conference wins. 

But Williams’ presence gave him the confidence to do so, Dunn said. 

“He’s going to take it upon himself to guard, no matter who it is,” Dunn added. “That’s the guy you want to play basketball with night in and night out.”

Williams and Dunn, who try to create a winning culture through their work ethic, have led the intense level of competition in practice and training, especially after losing sophomore guard Khalif Battle, who was averaging 21.4 points per game. 

“Everyone on our team can step it up and make the adjustment game by game,” Williams said. “We all had to adapt.”

Dunn and Williams started together in most of Temple’s games last season, allowing them to be prepared for this year. Their presence together, along with Battle, has been a staple for Temple during the past two seasons. 

Williams, as the primary ball handler, runs the offense starting in the backcourt. He can dribble past most defenders and can wait to find open shooters on the wing or maneuvering inside for a floater.

Dunn is a scoring threat from all three levels. He can shoot the three and slash inside the paint, but his mid-range shooting is a key factor in why he is leading the team in points. With Dunn taking ball screens off-ball, Williams can often find him for open looks.

There have been several games, like in their first conference game against the University of Central Florida on Dec. 15, 2021, the Owls passed open looks and held onto the ball for too long into the shot clock. 

“Our guys are just not playing with the confidence that I know that they play with,” said head coach Aaron McKie after the game. 

But once Williams and Dunn ran the floor more smoothly, the execution improved along with the team’s confidence, McKie added. 

Temple went on to win four of its next five games, with its only loss coming against then No. 12 University of Houston (16-2, 5-0 The American) on Jan. 2. Even then, Temple lost by only five points as Dunn led the team with 14 points and Williams had six assists. 

As the Owls’ aspirations to play late into March continue, their eyes are set on a goal that is beginning to feel within reach — an AAC Championship. 

With 11 games remaining in the regular season, the Owls have a chance to overcome their early season record. After finishing ninth in the conference last season, Temple sits at fifth so far this season and could have a stretch of winnable games on the horizon, like their match on Feb. 5 against University of Tulsa (6-11, 0-6 The American) and Feb. 12 at Tulane University (7-9, 4-3 The American).

It’ll ultimately come down to the young Owls performances, specifically Dunn and Williams, to lead them late in the season. 

The young duo is up for the challenge, Dunn said. 

“We need to win the conference,” Dunn added. “That’s the only thing we come into practice and work towards, to be winners and win the conference.”

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