Aaron McKie’s inaugural season as head coach of the Temple men’s basketball team will come with plenty of unknowns.
The primary one is whether McKie will thrive in his first head coaching role after serving five years as one of Fran Dunphy’s assistants and five years before that on the Sixers staff.
The team may also play three transfer players, a true freshman point guard, and a freshman returning from a medical redshirt year. It’s the sum of these unknowns, and a deep conference, that likely resulted in Temple’s No. 7 ranking in the American Athletic Conference preseason coaches poll following a 23-10 season and NCAA Tournament play-in game appearance last year.
But within those unknowns is a potential that could create another tournament team.
Quinton Rose enters his senior season ranked No. 33 in Temple scoring history with 1,343 points. Last season, the 6-foot-8, 185-pound wing finished ninth in the AAC with an average of 16.5 points per game. He scored in double figures in 30 of his 33 games played.
Following the departure of Shizz Alston Jr., who led the Owls, the AAC, and the Big 5 with 19.7 points per game, Rose is expected to take his role.
The ever-energetic Nate Pierre-Louis, a captain this season with Rose and forward J.P. Moorman, will be a disruptive force on defense.
The 6-foot-4, 200-pound shooting guard finished fifth in the conference with 1.6 steals per game (53 total) last season while guarding opponents’ top scorers. After starting all 33 games, Pierre-Louis was named the most improved player of both the AAC and the Big 5.
Rose will also add defensive help. He finished third in the conference with 2.2 steals per game last season. Their aggressive style creates fast breaks.
The show on North Broad will revolve around Rose. He declared for the NBA draft without an agent in 2018 in order to gain feedback from league scouts. That feedback included a need to improve his jump shot.
Last season, Rose’s minutes increased but his field goal percentage (43.4% to 40.4%) and three-point percentage (34.5% to 27.5%) decreased. His 83 turnovers were also a problem.
There’s no room for error this season and teammates have noticed Rose has taken ownership of his new role.
“He’s improved his jump shot a lot,” said junior forward Justyn Hamilton. “He’s also worked on his dribbling ability and his ability to read the floor. It just opens everything up for everybody.”
Josh Pierre-Louis, a 6-foot-3, 180-pound point guard and Nate’s younger brother, had committed to UNLV before head coach Dave Rice’s dismissal. At Temple, teammates, coaches, and scouts have raved about the freshman’s athleticism and scoring ability. Temple has needed that from a point guard in past seasons.
Monty Scott, a 6-foot-5, 185-pound guard who sat out last season because of transfer rules, averaged 17.3 points per game and led his team in steals in 2017 at Kennesaw State. The redshirt junior should be one of the first substitutions when offense is needed.
“Coaches look for me to come in, be that spark off the bench, score,” Scott said. “I’m tired of practicing. ... I’m ready for it.”
Temple has opportunities for consequential wins against preseason top-15 teams in Maryland, Villanova, and Memphis.
Memphis, led by projected lottery pick James Wiseman, is a juggernaut in the AAC, which also includes tough programs such as UConn and Cincinnati.
With plenty of talent and a schedule that can please the committee, a tournament appearance is achievable for the Owls and would be a tremendous start to McKie’s tenure.