Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
When he got to Temple, Daniel Dingle could barely bench press 150 pounds. And the 6-foot-7 Bronx native found out that at the high-major Division I level, that’s not nearly strong enough to guard opposing post players.
So when he tore his meniscus 10 games into the 2013-14 season, the sophomore forward figured he would focus on his upper body strength.
On Wednesday, Dingle got a double dose of good news. First, he found out that his waiver for a medical redshirt had been granted, and he would get to play the 2014-15 season as a redshirt sophomore with two further years of eligibility remaining.
Then he went out and benched 300 pounds.
“Even though I was going to compete next year as a junior, just having in my head that next year I get an extra year to play basketball and also further my education, I was very happy,” he said. “I didn’t know if it was going to happen or not.”
After barely seeing the court as a freshman, Dingle was averaging 6.7 ppg and 2.3 rpg in 20.3 mpg through 10 games, which included two starts. He certainly seemed to be getting more comfortable right before his injury, scoring 25 points and dishing out nine in the two games prior to suffering the torn ligament in practice.
But, as would be a theme for Temple all season, he was having issues on the defensive end, especially when he found himself matched up against stronger, tougher post players. So the Daniel Dingle who takes the court for the 2014-15 season will certainly look a little different than the one Owl fans are a little used to.
“I’m getting stronger for next year, so next year I can play a little more of the ‘4’, ‘3’, whatever,” he said. “This year I had a tough time guarding the ’4’ because they were stronger than me. This year it’s like a gift and a curse, being hurt; I became smarter, understand the game more and I got my body stronger.”
Temple struggled through the worst season in program history in 2013-14, going 9-22 overall and 4-14 in the debut season of the American Athletic Conference, losing in the first round of the AAC tournament. Aside from snapping a string of six consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances under Fran Dunphy, it marked the first time ever a Temple team had lost 20-plus games.
Would Dingle have turned the Owls from a disappointment into a tournament contender? Almost certainly not–the team had problems at a number of spots across the board, especially defensively.
But considering the team only had nine scholarship players to begin with, his absence certainly didn’t help a team that lost nine games by 10 points or fewer following his injury.
“I would say the key word was ‘almost,’” junior point guard Will Cummings said. “That was what happened in a lot of those games where we’d go down to the wire or we just didn’t pull it out in the end. Dingle was a big piece that we were missing a lot in that part of the stretch, so the ‘almost’ could have been Dingle.”
The butterfly effect, part of chaos theory, is the idea that a small occurrence can have a major impact on the bigger picture. Dunphy actually pinpointed a moment early in his teams’ season that he felt reverberated throughout the weeks and months that followed.
In a non-conference game against Texas back on Dec. 7, Temple held a three-point led with 1:56 remaining when sophomore Quenton DeCosey went to the free-throw line. He missed both. A minute later, in a tie game, Anthony Lee missed a pair.
Texas would go on to win the game in overtime. Temple, instead of being 5-3 and riding a four-game winning streak, dropped to .500.
They would go on to lose 14 of their next 17 games, beginning with allowing Aaric Murray to go off for 48 points in a home loss to Texas Southern.
“If we make one of those foul shots, and they were two-shot fouls, too, we probably walk away with a really good win, and in my mind the mindset going from Texas to Texas Southern is different,” Dunphy said. “Now all of a sudden we’re used to winning, we’ve got a sense of who we are.
“Seasons can change on a game. A game can change on a play, so it stands to reason the season changes on one play sometimes.”
If Temple needed the smallest bit of good luck to change their fortunes, maybe they got it on Wednesday.