Game On

Senior Khalif Wyatt scored over 17 points per game

Change is upon the Temple men's basketball team and it's not just because this is the last season in the Atlantic 10 Conference before making the long-awaited move to the Big East. Three-year starters Juan Fernandez and Micheal Eric are gone, as is two-year starter Ramone Moore. But in their place are six players who weren't on the floor for the Owls last year.

Change is upon the Temple men's basketball team and it's not just because this is the last season in the Atlantic 10 Conference before making the long-awaited move to the Big East.

Three-year starters Juan Fernandez and Micheal Eric are gone, as is two-year starter Ramone Moore. But in their place are six players who weren't on the floor for the Owls last year - including an unusual three with significant college experience.

Forward Scootie Randall returns for his fifth year after sitting out last season recovering from knee surgery. Guard Dalton Pepper, who sat out as a transfer from West Virginia last year, will have two years of eligibility remaining.

And former America East Rookie of the Year Jake O'Brien adds depth to the front court, coming to Temple as a graduate student for his final season after taking a medical redshirt last year at Boston University.

The Owls open the season against Kent State on Tuesday at noon as part of ESPN's basketball marathon. They open their home schedule at the Liacouras Center on Saturday at 8 p.m. against Rice.

"While we are missing Juan, Ramone and Mike Eric, we have these three guys and that will be interesting to see how they make that adjustment," said coach Fran Dunphy. "I think the hardest thing a kid has to do is sit out a year."

Dunphy also adds three freshmen with high pedigrees in Daniel Dingle, Quenton DeCosey and Devontae Watson. Despite the coach's hesitance to play freshmen over veterans, Dunphy admitted this group will see time.

"There isn't any question, the three of them bring specific skills," said Dunphy.

Sophomore Will Cummings will get the first chance to start at point guard alongside senior guard Khalif Wyatt, senior forwards Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson and Randall and sophomore center Anthony Lee.

Senior guard T. J. DiLeo will also play a vital role.

"It's the most depth I've had at Temple, I'm going to have to manage a lot of minutes out there," said Dunphy. "That will be our toughest chore as a coaching staff. At the end of the day, the top five players will be on the court, hopefully finishing up our share of wins."

Cummings, who played sporadically during his freshman season, is certainly in line for a much larger role with the Owls' former point guard, Juan Fernandez, done. While Wyatt and DiLeo can bring the ball up the floor, Cummings is a true point guard with more speed than any player on the team.

"I learned a lot from Juan last year, it was a great experience learning his ways and how to be a leader and run the offense," said Cummings. "I can use my quickness to get guys open shots. Transition is where I thrive at. If I get a couple buckets or get people open shots in transition, that gets me going."

With Moore and Fernandez gone, this will be Wyatt's team. He finished second on the Owls to Moore last year at 17.1 points per game a year ago and should be a conference Player of the Year contender.

"When I have the ball in my hands, I just want to make good decisions and I want to show I can guard anybody," said Wyatt. "I'm excited. I want my teammates to depend on me, and I'm just looking forward to competing with my teammates. There's no added pressure, I just want to compete with my teammates, play good defense and get wins."

The Owls are coming off a season with great expectations that ended poorly. After earning the No. 1 seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament and a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Temple fell in the first round of each tournament to end the year on a two-game losing streak.

"We're trying our best to be the best team we can be," said Dunphy. "Are we thinking about (the poor finish)? Is it helping us motivationally? It is, because we finished poorly and we never want to do that again."

Despite the significant turnover, the Owls believe they can duplicate last year's regular-season success and give themselves a chance to go farther in the postseason.

"We can still be great, we have a lot of interchangeable guys," said Randall. "We have a lot of guys who can do the same things and I think this will be one of Coach Dunphy's special teams. We want to leave the A-10 with a great season and this is the time to do it."

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