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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Men's basketball forced to replace legend

Averaging nearly one double-double per game throughout his entire career, Lavoy Allen was a stable force for men’s basketball, game in and game out for four years.

The Owls will attempt to maintain that level of consistency, as for the first time since 2006, the team will take the court this season without Allen leading them at forward.

“[Allen’s] greatest asset was that he was the same guy every day,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “He was very consistent as a player and very consistent as a person. I think the guys got used to that, they knew that they could count on him.”

A quiet but efficient leader, Allen became Temple’s all-time leading rebounder last year while leading the Owls to the NCAA tournament.

“[Allen] wasn’t one of the most talkative people, but on the court he was the most efficient player that I’ve ever been around,” redshirt-senior guard Ramone Moore said. “When you walk into a room you might not even notice [Allen], but once he’s on that floor, you know his presence is felt.”

Allen was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round of the National Basketball Association draft in June. This season, the Owls will be dealt the task of replacing Allen’s production, both on and off the court.

“There’s a chemistry piece that’s missing,” Dunphy said. “[Allen’s] reliability was very strong, and I think the guys took comfort in that. That consistency is what you really need.”

Graduate center Micheal Eric will start this year as the Owls’ top returning big man. But Eric will have to improve upon last season’s 5.9 rebound per game average in an effort to make up for losing Allen. Dunphy said that Eric can’t do it alone, everyone will have to step up and grab rebounds.

“On the defensive end in rebounding, everybody’s going to have to take a piece of the action without [Allen],” Dunphy said. “He was a great rebounder. He was the best defender we had. You could always count on him.”

Redshirt-freshman Anthony Lee will also have a chance to gain a significant amount of playing time in his first season. Dunphy and Lee’s teammates said that the 6-foot-9-inch forward, who redshirted last season with a back injury, could make an impact immediately in the paint.

“[Lee] is doing about as good as he can do,” Dunphy said. “I’m impressed with where he is, but he is going to have to continue to make progress. He’s probably going to have to give us 20-some minutes a game.”

The Owls also have a multiplicity of experienced guards returning. Senior Juan Fernandez is a team co-captain and third-year starter, and junior Khalif Wyatt and sophomore Aaron Brown averaged 20.7 and 9.9 minutes per game, respectively, last year.

“I think every year poses a different issue,” Dunphy said. “Some years you’re going to be a good team and you’re going to spread out the scoring across the whole five positions, and other years there’s going to be kids who are just really good scorers and other people will defer to them.”

A shift from a forward-based offensive setup to an offense that centers on the athleticism of the guards could be in place due to the emergence of Moore last year, who lead the team in scoring in his first full season as a starter.

“I think a lot of times we might have to go small, so that might put the load on myself,” Moore said. “I think it’s going to be a question for all of us. It’s nothing we can’t handle.”

Dunphy said that there will be a continuous cycle of guards each game, citing the benefits of multiple players coming off the bench.

“When you come off the bench you see the game a little bit better,” Dunphy said. “You’re expected to perform coming off the bench. You can’t make as many mistakes.”

“A lot of those guys, you can tell they’re trying to improve and make a difference on the team,” Randall added.

While Dunphy said it’s impossible to replace Allen as a player or a person, the Owls’ depth at guard combined with their size at forward makes it that much easier.

“I don’t think you ever replace guys like Allen,” Dunphy said. “I’m not sure who we are yet, we’re still developing towards who we are.”

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