Anthony Bellino (bellino_anthony)
Though Temple sophomores Anthony Lee and Will Cummings will both be counted on to bring different dimensions to the Owls basketball program this season, their roads to getting there have been vastly different.
As a redshirt-freshman last year, Lee was thrust into the Owls lineup as senior Michael Eric recovered from a fractured right patella. Coach Fran Dunphy said the 6-foot-9 Lee did as good as he could’ve done regarding the circumstances.
“I think Anthony is a pretty bright guy, he was also a sophomore last year academically and physically so he understood what the role was,” said Dunphy, entering his seventh year as coach of the Owls. “I thought he did as good of a job as he could possibly do, I think he’s poised to have a really good year this year.”
Lee took the opportunity last year and made the most of it. His best performance arguably was when he posted 11 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots in Temple’s upset of top-5 Duke. He said that after his experiences in his first official season after redshirting due to a back injury in 2010-11 his confidence level is very high.
“It really gave me a lot of confidence last year getting thrown into the water, now I’ve experienced it and I know what to expect,” Lee said. “I knew I can step in, getting an opportunity I knew I just had to do what I can do and it helped me this year because I know I have a lot of responsibility and just being a leader because I know I’m going to be playing every game this year.”
This offseason, Lee took it upon himself to improve his physique by adding 20 pounds of muscle to his lanky 6-foot9 frame. Playing center for every game will take a toll on anyone’s body, so Lee expects the added muscle to help him on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball
“I expect it to help me a lot…I’m not the biggest guy in the world but adding to my frame definitely helps me a lot,” Lee said. “It’s going to help me go against other guys, play good defense, hold my position, get better post position and things like that will help me a lot this year.”
With Eric now graduated, it’s possible that freshman Devontae Watson to play the role that Lee played last year. Lee said that practicing against Watson–who stands at 6-foot-10 and has a 94-inch wingspan–will have him ready to play against some of the larger centers the Owls will face this season. He said that Watson is a different player than Eric or former Temple center Lavoy Allen, who Lee has spent the last two seasons working against in practice.
“The difference is (Watson) is a heck of a long player, his wingspan is super long,” Lee said. “Going up against him will be good for me because other guys I might go up against might have a long wingspan and they might try to block everything, I have to use a lot of pump fakes and just be more creative in the post.”
While Lee saw extended amounts of playing time as a redshirt freshman that was not the case for Cummings. The 6-foot-2 guard from Jacksonville, Fl. spent most of his freshman year watching seniors Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez, as well as juniors Khalif Wyatt and T.J. DiLeo handle, most of the backcourt duty. Cummings said that learning from Fernandez and Moore last year made him a more mature player.
“Learning from those guys was a great experience,” he said. “Just being a leader on the court at all times and at practice, taking care of the ball and being able to run the offense.”
On both the offensive and defensive side of the ball Cummings is a completely different player than Fernandez. He said that his speed will bring a different dynamic to the offense than the Owls have used the past few years with Fernandez handling the ball.
“Juan was more controlled like slower paced, I’m more up-tempo, that’s how I like to play,” Cummings said. “I think that I bring more of the fast-break element for this year instead of always just running the sets.”
Cummings also sees his foot speed helping on the defensive side of the ball, saying that coach Dunphy is already on him about pressuring the ball and creating turnovers.
“Oh definitely, that’s one thing coach Dunphy is already getting on to me about is always up in the defense, picking up before half court,” Cummings said. “I’ll be pressuring the ball further up on the court and that’ll lead to more fast breaks and easier buckets.”
This season Dunphy expects Cummings to take on more of a role than that of his freshman year saying that he is happy with how he’s working.
“He’s been working really hard and getting stronger,” Dunphy said. “I see him being a significant person in our basketball program, I think he’s going to play a lot of minutes, he’s going to have to play very well for us to have a good season.”