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Q&A with Villanova and Temple stars

TEMPLE fifth-year senior Ramone Moore and Villanova junior Maalik Wayns are now the respective faces of the two teams that have been the best in the city during their careers. With the season set to begin tonight, the Daily News recently sat down with these Philadelphia products to get their thoughts on the immediate future, what makes them tick and what it's like to be linked to a tradition and legacy that goes back over a half-century.

TEMPLE fifth-year senior Ramone Moore and Villanova junior Maalik Wayns are now the respective faces of the two teams that have been the best in the city during their careers. With the season set to begin tonight, the Daily News recently sat down with these Philadelphia products to get their thoughts on the immediate future, what makes them tick and what it's like to be linked to a tradition and legacy that goes back over a half-century.

Daily News: So, are you guys very friendly, and when did you start to find out about each other? Take us through that.

Ramone Moore: First time we ever met was at a basketball game. I was going into my senior year (at Southern High School). I heard there was this pretty good kid at Roman, but he was a few years behind me.

Maalik Wayns: I remember I actually came to a game here (at the Liacouras Center) when he had like 40 (points) on Chester . . . Ever since, we became close.

DN: Is it a little different coming up in the Catholic League vs. the Public, or is city ball city ball?

RM: I think it might be different, but you can say city ball is city ball. During my senior year, there was a lot of good competition with myself, the (Morris) twins, but the Catholic League always has that, too.

MW: It's all the same, just a little different. They play during the day, we play at night.

DN: Is there a kind of rivalry thing there? (Ramone) went to the big Public university, (Maalik) went to the big Catholic school?

MW: Between us, no. I mean, between the schools probably always. We're friends. We don't really let it get to us.

DN: But when you guys get together during the summer, is there a lot of that going on?

RM: No, just going out there trying to make each other better, really. That's all it is.

DN: How did you wind up at Temple?

RM: Probably during the middle of my senior year, they contacted me, wanted to recruit me. But at first they didn't have a scholarship available. I was going to do prep school, but before I decided, one became available so I decided to stay home, which was one of the things that I wanted to do, just because of family reasons.

DN: And (Maalik) always wanted to go to Villanova, right? You kind of had your mind made up early in life. Was that a Jay Wright thing?

MW: Yeah, you could say that. It was a little bit of both. A lot of schools that recruited me were kind of far (away), and I'm a Philly kid, so I just always wanted to stay home, and always wanted Villanova.

DN: Do you take a lot of pride in being a Philly guard? It has a pedigree that goes back to Guy Rodgers. There's some serious names that have played here, and now you're part of that lineage. How do you take that, and is it neat to be doing it in Philadelphia as opposed to if you had gone somewhere else?

RM: I think we take it very seriously. Like you said, a lot of great guards came before our time. I think it's important for us to uphold that and keep it going, for ourselves and the guys coming up behind us as well.

MW: There's nothing like it when you're doing it at home. When you're from Philly and you're playing in the city, playing in the Big 5, you know it means way more to you than it does to a guy who comes from New York to play (here), or something like that. So every game in the Big 5, you know it's just, whether you're playing against a Xavier or like I play against Syracuse, it's just as much significance.

DN: What's it like when you guys play Big 5 games? You've got all those big (non-Big 5 games). Contrast those to when you're playing against each other? Because we've always heard Villanova kids don't care as much as they do when they're playing in the Big East.

MW: I care about Big 5 a whole lot, watching it growing up. It's just as important to me, even more important, because you've got to see those guys throughout the summer, the year, (even) the rest of your life. We hang out together, so it's like bragging rights really.

RM: It's kind of the same thing (for me). I take a lot of pride in Big 5 games. Get kind of tired of Villanova winning (the title) every year so we've got to, you know, try and win some times as well. Like Maalik said, coming from Philly, it means a lot.

DN: So when (Temple) beat (Villanova) here 2 years ago, you might have let him hear about that? And maybe this summer he got to say a little bit?

RM: We kind of talked about it a little bit, but it wasn't really too much.

DN: Did either of you this summer think about testing the NBA (draft) waters? We thought maybe you might, and then neither of you did. Just curious on what your thought process there.

MW: Me, personally, I really didn't think about it. I know a lot of people, even coming into the season, were thinking about me leaving. That really didn't cross my mind at all. That thought is there, but I always wanted to stay in college. I love playing at Villanova, that's where my heart is.

DN: So we can put you down for 2 more years then?

MW: Yeah, put me down.

DN: What about you, Ramone?

RM: I kind of thought about it a little bit. But I think the best thing for me was to come back, get my degree, play my last year here. I've been here for 4 years, and I decided that my fifth year would be the most important. So I wanted to just come back to try and make the best of (it).

DN: You didn't always have it easy at first. You struggled. Is that real important to you, that degree? You just saw Dionte (Christmas) come back and get his, so Dunph could shave his mustache.

RM: It's real important. I think coach Dunphy wants the best for me and Scootie (Randall), for us to graduate. It's been pretty tough for both of us. Fortunately, I'll be the first to graduate from my family. So that'll be a big accomplishment as well. So I'm working hard in the classroom.

DN: Now you guys have different situations this year. (Temple) has a lot of seniors back, lost one real good one (Lavoy Allen), picked second in your league (Atlantic 10). Villanova is a question mark, coming off a disappointing finish. Ramone, what's it like having (three) senior guards back, with all the expectations, especially coming off that NCAA win?

RM: We've got a lot of experience, that's a good thing to have, people that have been here for a long time, we all know each others tendencies and things like that. We had a big loss, so it remains to be seen how well our big men play . . . The first 3 years, we won the A-10 championship, but we were (finally) able to get a win in the tournament, which was very important for coach Dunphy, so I think that was big for him as well as the university. We want to go further this year.

DN: Maalik, you're in a totally different situation, with no seniors. Now the expectations are low, think people picked you eighth in the Big East. So there's a lot of question marks surrounding this team. How many do you think you'll be able to answer?

MW: I think a lot. We've got juniors that are ready to lead, seasoned, who've played in big-time games. Our freshmen are more seasoned than regular freshmen. I see them every day in practice. We had the trip to Europe (in August), that helped guys a whole lot. We got to bond as a team, got our chemistry going. We'll be a different team than we were the last couple of years. Bigger, more athletic, but I think we'll be pretty good.

DN: Is it kind of nice that people aren't paying much attention to Villanova, which wasn't the case the last 2 years?

MW: I think one thing I learned from coach Wright is never try to get too high or too low. As a freshman. we were No. 2 in the country. Last year, I think we were picked No. 5. We try to approach it the same way as we do now, just try to be the best team we can be at the end of the year. Just keep getting better and better as every game goes on . . . I think (last year is) behind us. I think it's in the back of our minds. We know what we've got to do. How much little things are important. In the Big East, every game comes down to the last minute. We know what to expect.

DN: What's it like playing for Dunph?

RM: He's great, man. He gets the best out of his players. Each year I've been here I think I've become a better player. We've grown as a player and a coach, in our relationship as well. First couple of years was kind of up and down, as far as me personally, for him sticking with me. Always there, had my back, just try and push through, good things will come to you. I always appreciate that . . . He's not difficult to play for, at all. As far as offense, you can do whatever you want. But he wants you to play good defense, rebound the ball, do the little things.

DN: So if you score 30 and your guy gets 20, it won't be a good time.

RM: He probably won't even show your points on film. It'll be all the other guy's points.

DN: What's Jay like? He's got this public persona; I guess it's a little different when he's with you guys.

MW: Actually, it's simple to play for him. You've got to defend and rebound. You do those two things, on offense he gives you freedom. I've become so much of a better player, learning from him. Off the court, it's like a father-son type (relationship). I love it. I talk to him as much as possible. I'm always in his office constantly, every day.

DN: You're going to play Temple, you're guarding Ramone. Give me the scouting report.

MW: Silky smooth, scorer, mid-range game, he can shoot the three. Can play the point if you need him to. He's a great player.

DN: Is there a weakness?

MW: I ain't going to say that yet, we're going to try and exploit that when we play them (on Dec. 10). No, I'm just playing him.

DN: OK, Ramone, tell me about him.

RM: Typical Philly guard. Small, gritty, tough. Hard to defend. Can get wherever he wants on the floor pretty quick. Trying to guard him is pretty tough. He's pretty fast in the open court, one of his great strengths. But it'll be fun (when we play).

DN: Was there one thing you said, I've got to work on from the end of last year to this year, to make me a better player and my team a better team?

RM: I've always been skinny, so I always try to work on my body and try to gain some pounds. I tried to stay in the weight room as much as possible. I think that can help me. And I think my decision-making as well. I want to keep my turnovers down, try to be a better passer. I think I have to score a lot, more than I did last year.

DN: What about you, Maalik?

MW: Knowing with (Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes) gone, I have to get in the best shape of my life. The opposite of what he did. I lost like 13-14 pounds. And I worked on my jump shot all summer, shooting with Ramone. He gave me some tips. And just being a leader, a vocal leader, for my team on the floor.

DN: Is there anything that you can tell us that we wouldn't know about you? Last year, Ramone, you told me you wanted to jump out of an airplane.

RM: No, I changed that up now.

DN: And why was that?

RM: I don't know. That's a risky chance. I think I might want to choose something different.

DN: So is there a little Ramone secret you might like to share?

RM: I'm just laid back, a family person, just love spending time with my (4-year-old) daughter.

DN: And what about you, Maalik? Or is what we see what we get?

MW: Kind of. But I love dogs. That's one thing that people don't know. I have a pit bull.

DN: OK, so if somebody's coming into town and we're going to take them out, what's our go-to cheesesteak place?

MW: Ishkabibbles.

DN: Where's that?

MW: South Street.

DN: Never been. What makes it so good?

MW: I don't know. Actually, first time I went, the line to Jim's was around the corner. So I was like, let me try that place across the street. And ever since then, I just fell in love with it.

RM: I would have to pick the same. Everybody might want to say Geno's or Pat's, but I don't like them as much. They've got good burgers, too.

DN: Might have to try it. We'll end on this: on Dec. 10, there's going to be an emotional matchup right here. (Temple) will probably be favored, because you guys don't lose at home. So who walks out with a win?

RM: Remains to be seen.

MW: I guess we've just got to wait and see.

DN: And who wins the Big 5 title?

RM: That as well.

DN: Fair enough. Thanks for taking the time, and best of luck this season.