Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Khalif Wyatt, miss college? Yeah, right.
Not the same kid who was admittedly “trying to get out as quickly as possible” his freshman season. You know, the talented scorer from Norristown who played just 19 minutes in his first year at Temple, the one who showed up late to film sessions and didn’t always quite see eye-to-eye with head coach Fran Dunphy.
Yeah, that Khalif Wyatt.
“I mean, I miss it,” he told CoBL. “I never thought I’d say it.”
Okay, so maybe Wyatt isn’t exactly begging to trade in a professional basketball career for more classes, dorm rooms and college food. But he realizes, like alums of many colleges do, that what he had in his four years at North Broad was an experience that he won’t be able to replicate.
“The family atmosphere…I had 12 brothers with my teammates, and they were with me through everything,” he said. “All the stuff I went through at Temple, they were there with me. I guess I just miss it and I guess as time goes on, I’ll reflect back more and more on how special it really was.”
Clearly, the Khalif Wyatt who sat in the interview room at the Danny Rumph Classic on Friday night was not the same one who had finished up his Owls career just months before. Noticeably slimmer, Wyatt said he’s lost 10-15 pounds and 4-5 percent body fat on a combination of better diet and a workout plan.
The new body came with a new uniform as well. After going undrafted following a 2012-13 season that saw him win the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year award, averaging 20.5 points and 4.0 assists per game, he was signed by the Philadelphia 76ers to play for the team’s Summer League squad.
Seeing his name on the back of that red, white and blue uniform–even just for a week-long summer league–clearly meant quite a bit.
“It was crazy, when you’re young you dream about being in the NBA–I know I’m not in the NBA yet, but that was the closest I’ve ever been to it and it was cool,” Wyatt said. “A lot of people dream about stuff like that, and it was like a dream come true.
“The Sixers gave me a great opportunity in Orlando; I played a lot of minutes, I got a chance to showcase myself. I was just grateful for the opportunity that the Sixers gave me because there were a lot of guys who were in the summer league and were barely even playing. The Sixers gave me a chance to show what I could do.”
He certainly did just that, impressing with a number of 20-point outings, ultimately bypassing an option to leave the Sixers early for a spot with Dallas’ summer league team out in Las Vegas. It was a big statement from a guard whose game many weren’t sure would translate up to the next level, and now Wyatt seems very confident he’ll find himself in an NBA training camp.
Could it be Philadelphia’s? A few things have to get resolved at the big club before that question can be answered, like figuring out who will be coach.
“I guess that’s a good sign, they wanted to keep me for the rest of the week,” Wyatt said. “We’ll just see going forward, (when) they get a coach…and figure out some things with their cap room, and just see what happens after that.”
Wyatt told CoBL that he expected to know something “soon, within the next maybe two weeks, hopefully,” so for now he’s continuing to work out and play in events like the Rumph Classic. An eight-team tournament filled with professional ballplayers, all of the eighth-annual event’s proceeds go towards fighting hypertrophy cardiomyopathy, the leading cause of sudden cardiac arrest and the condition that stopped Rumph’s life at the young age of 21 back in 2005.
Out on the court at Arcadia University, Wyatt certainly looked like he fit in amongst a number of current NBA stars. In his first Rumph appearance, he had seven points and a handful of assists in helping the Temple Alums to an opening-round win.
“I’ve been watching it for the last five or six years and ever since the first time I watched it, I wanted to play,” he said. ”There’s no pressure, it’s just fun, a good opportunity to play against some pros and some Philly guys and it’s for a good cause too, that’s what it’s really all about.”
He also ventures back to his old stomping grounds on North Broad, working out at the Temple facility with former teammates including Scootie Randall, Ramone Moore, Dionte Christmas and more. One of five graduating players from a 24-10 squad in 2012-13 that advanced to the third round of the NCAA tournament, Wyatt now finds himself in the position of giving advice to the next generation of Owls.
“I talked to Daniel (Dingle) and Will (Cummings) and Quenton (DeCosey), I tell them ‘just let it come to you,’” he said. “I know they all feel like they’ve got to average 30 points or do the spectacular things or something like that. I told them just let it come to them, listen to coach Dunphy and just go out there and just play your game, don’t try to do anything out of character. Just be you, and that’s really the only advice I can give them, just play hard.”
Can’t hurt to listen to someone who’s learned from experience.