Team preview: Temple

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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

The John Chaney-Phil Martelli feud didn't quite have the sizzle of the Terrell Owens-Donovan McNabb soap opera in the City of Brotherly Love. No helicopters were flying over Chaney's house. And he certainly wasn't doing sit-ups in his front yard.

But Chaney and Martelli had some serious fence-mending to do this summer. It took five months, but in early September, Chaney and Martelli finally held a peace summit at a Philly restaurant to try and repair their obviously damaged relationship.

When they emerged, the two coaches posed for pictures and announced that they were going to head up the Atlantic 10's effort to raise money for the Hurricane Katrina victims.

Chaney said after the meeting with Martelli, "Look, I was the culprit here. I admit it. We want to make sure that something like this never happens again."

It won't, or Chaney will be shown the door rather than getting to quit on his own terms.

Frankly, Chaney is fortunate to have another chance to coach the Temple Owls after last year's embarrassing "Goon-gate" episode in which he sent burly backup forward Nehemiah Ingram into a game against Saint Joseph's to play rough last Feb. 22. In the days leading up to the game, Chaney said on the Atlantic 10 coaches conference call that if the refs didn't call some of the illegal screens Chaney thought the Hawks used to free up sweet-shooting Pat Carroll that he would take matters into his own hands by sending one of his goons into the game.

On game night, Chaney thought the referees were failing to call illegal screens on Saint Joseph's, so he followed through on his threat. Chaney's lapse in judgment resulted in Hawks forward John Bryant getting slammed to the floor by Ingram and breaking a bone in his arm. The situation, which resulted in Chaney missing the final three games of the regular season and the entire A-10 Tournament, left the school, the league and the tradition-rich program embarrassed.

Much like the many successes Chaney has achieved (five trips to the Elite Eight, almost single-handedly putting the A-10 on the map, getting inducted into the Hall of Fame), this ugly incident -- along with his charging at then-UMass head coach John Calipari at a press conference years ago -- will be a part of Chaney's permanent record.

Now, Chaney, in what many believe will be his final season on North Broad Street (we've all heard those rumors before and will believe it when we see it), will try to guide his Owls back into the Big Dance after four straight NIT trips.

"I look to this team to be one of our better teams," said Chaney, who is one win shy of 500 at the school. "This is a team that had great opportunities last year to bust through as a young team. Now, one year later and with the addition of young talented players that can help us immensely, I think this will be one of our better teams."

One reason to think this year's Owls are a legit NCAA Tournament team is the return of 6-5 senior point guard Mardy Collins (17.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 3.6 apg), one of the most complete players in the entire nation. A starter since his arrival on campus, Collins had his best season as a junior in 2004-05, leading Temple in scoring, rebounding and assists. Collins continues the amazing run of guards that Chaney has had on North Broad Street, a list that includes Mark Macon, Eddie Jones, Aaron McKie, Pepe Sanchez, Rick Brunson, Lynn Greer and Nate Blackwell.

"In order for us to be successful, he must have continued growth in the area of leadership," Chaney said.

A first team all-Atlantic 10 Conference performer, Collins is not only known for his offensive game but is highly regarded as a top-notch defender. Voted to the all-Atlantic 10 Defensive Team, the Philadelphia native ended the 2004-05 campaign ranked 10th nationally in steals per game, averaging 2.8 per game.

Collins, who played for Martelli this summer on Team USA's Under-21 this past summer, is just one of nine Owls returnees. It could one of the deepest teams in Chaney's 24 years at Temple with four of the veterans -- Collins, senior Antywane Robinson, junior Wayne Marshall and sophomore Mark Tyndale -- having started 20 or more games and junior guard Dustin Salisbery having made 13 starts.

Chaney normally trusts freshman as much as he trusts referees, but he gave Tyndale (12.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg) a license to shoot last year and he was second to Collins in most of the team's statistical categories. An A-10 All-Rookie selection, the 6-5 Tyndale handed out 77 assists and made 37 steals. While he's adept at driving to the hole, Tyndale doesn't own a textbook shooting stroke (his guide hand seems to kill any rotation on his perimeter shot). He shot .216 from three-point range and .330 from the field as a freshman. Tyndale worked all summer on his perimeter shooting, as did Collins (.276 3PT in 2004-05).

"I am hoping that he is going to settle in as a mature, versatile and very special player," Chaney said of Tyndale. "He has tremendous savvy about the game of basketball."

Salisbery is another interesting perimeter option, but he must attack the rim more rather than settling for outside shots all the time. Despite serving as the team's sixth man for most of his sophomore season, Salisbery was third on the squad in scoring (10.4 ppg.) assists (44), steals (30) and minutes per game (28.6 mpg.). An explosive scorer as evidenced by his career-high 27 points versus Dayton and 21 points at Duke, the 6-5 guard struggled with consistency at times.

"Dustin had some great games," Chaney said. "He played very well against Duke. He played well against Maryland [17 points], but he was not consistently being the kind of player that we are hoping for as a shooter, not a scorer," Chaney said. "He is going to have to work hard because the new guys will push him to making us a better team."

The two new faces on the perimeter are 6-4 freshman Semaj Inge and 6-5 freshman Dionte Christmas. Inge, a combo guard out of nearby Woodrow Wilson High (Camden, N.J.), averaged 20.7 points and 7.0 assists as a senior.

Christmas, a prolific shooter out of Philadelphia Lutheran Christian Academy, averaged 18 points per game in leading his prep school to a 35-3 record last season. It took a while for Christmas to make it through the NCAA Clearinghouse, but he did and will provide the Owls, a team that shot just .275 from three-point range, a much-needed three-point shooter.

"Semaj comes equipped to play as a point and he is farther advanced than Mardy was when he arrived," Chaney said. "Dionte brings us a bonafide shooter, which we did not have last year."

Chaney thinks the Owls' final two backcourt returnees, 6-5 sophomore guard DaShone Kirkendoll (2.5 ppg) and 5-8 sophomore guard Chris Clark (1.1 ppg), will have made adjustments after their rookie campaigns. Neither looked like an A-10 level player last season.

While Temple saw 7-0 senior Keith Butler transfer to DePaul over the summer, the frontcourt appears to be in pretty decent shape.

Six-foot-11 junior Wayne Marshall and 6-8 senior Antwayne Robinson will lead the Owls' frontcourt. With Butler gone, Marshall (6.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg) will take over the post for the Owls full-time this season, after averaging 24.7 minutes per game in 2004-05, his first collegiate season. Marshall has soft hands, but seemed a little too soft in his mid-section too last season. He'll need to get stronger in order to reach the stardom many are predicting for him.

"After playing one year, much more is expected of Wayne," Chaney said. "His upside is tremendous."

Robinson (8.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg) is another player that showed flashes of brilliance at times a year ago. Robinson finished the year as the team's leading three-point shooter (.349, 44-of-126) while placing fourth in scoring, nearly double his sophomore year average. Robinson is skinny, but has a live, athletic body. However, despite his long arms and leaping ability, Robinson seems reluctant to get involved in the rough stuff in the paint, opting to play on the perimeter instead. Given his obvious gifts, Robinson should average more rebounds.

"Antywane has tremendous offensive ability, but I want him to step it up in rebounding and defense," Chaney said. "He should be able to play a bigger person and run the floor a lot better. He must take on a bigger role as one of our leaders and he must also be one of our strongest go-to players."

Backing up Robinson once again will be 6-6 junior forward Dion Dacons (1.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg), a serviceable inside player. Despite his size, Dacons has proven to be a strong rebounder. His rebound average is deceiving given his limited playing time.

"He stays within his abilities and that is not making mistakes, trying to play good defense and hitting the boards," Chaney said. "We have to expect that from him and he can do that. He is a very intelligent player."

Also vying for backup minutes in the post are 7-1 freshman Sergio Olmos and 6-8 senior Nehemiah Ingram (0.7 ppg, 1.1 rpg). Olmos, a Spanish import who was recommended to the Owls coaches by former Temple great Pepe Sanchez, joined the team as a red-shirt in January, while Ingram, seldom-used as a junior, will look to return to his 2003-04 form where he averaged 13.9 minutes, 2.9 rebounds and 1.9 points per game.

One interesting upshot of the whole "Goon-gate" incident is that the Indianapolis Colts called Temple's athletic office after seeing Ingram's body and aggressive nature -- his hard fouls on Bryant were shown on continuous loop last February and March. The Colts wondered if Ingram played football at Temple. Shortly after that phone call from the Colts, Ingram decided to give the gridiron a try and is now a backup offensive lineman for the woeful Owls football squad.

With Butler leaving for DePaul and with the distinct possibility Ingram could get hurt playing football, Chaney took out an 11th hour insurance policy when he signed 6-10, 300-plus pound Anthony Ivory just days before the start of classes. Ivory attended Genesis One Christian School in Mendenhall, Miss., last year.

Ivory played his high school basketball at Marriott Charter in Washington, D.C. He signed with Providence in 2004 but opted to go to prep school after not getting qualified. The big concerns about Ivory are his weight and conditioning. Over the last couple seasons, he's weighed as much as 340 pounds. If he's in shape and stays that way, he might be able to help.


If this is Chaney's final season, the Owls will be highly motivated to send the aging legend out on a high note (read: an NCAA Tournament invite).

To do so, the Owls must avoid getting buried in an early-season avalanche of losses -- something that's plagued them the last four years. That won't be easy to do, because Temple will again play one of the toughest schedules in the nation, but this time most of the tougher opponents will be heading to Philadelphia. The Owls host Alabama, Duke, Maryland, Miami, South Carolina, and Army in the preseason NIT (their second-round foe will likely be UCLA), while traveling to Auburn, Princeton and Rutgers. The team will also take on traditional Philadelphia Big 5 foes Penn and Villanova at the historic Palestra.

To avoid yet another NCAA Tournament miss, Temple must also tweak its offense. Right now, the Owls are so concerned with turnovers that possessions often consist of just one or two guys handling the ball until there's five or less seconds on the shot clock. As a result, Temple takes a lot of rushed or ill-advised shots late in the shot clock.

But there's enough talent here to author a happy ending for Chaney, if this is indeed his final season. In Mardy Collins, Temple will have an All-America candidate on its roster. In addition, the Owls have three other reliable scoring threats in Tyndale, Salisbery Marshall.

If some of these upgrades are made and the Owls are able to get enough impressive non-conference scalps, an NCAA berth is possible.

For the most comprehensive previews on all 326 Division I teams, order the "Bible" of college basketball, the 25th anniversary edition of Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, at www.blueribbonyearbook.com or call 1-866-805-BALL (2255).