Will Cummings has been asked to lead this year's Temple team in a variety of ways, and the 6-foot-2 senior point guard has certainly complied.
Lead on the floor. Lead off the floor.
When the team faced its biggest adversity of the season? Cummings was there to address the masses.
It's difficult to comprehend a more thorough leader than Cummings, who has never been the most boisterous person.
In fact, he has had to work on being vocal. And even though his teammates listen attentively, Cummings would much rather lead with just the basketball in his hands.
Yet this season, which continues when Temple (25-10) hosts Louisiana Tech (27-8) in an NIT quarterfinal at 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Liacouras Center, Cummings has been a highly effective leader, despite his quiet nature.
"His personality does change when he gets on the court as far as being a little more outspoken," Willie Cummings, his father, said from the family home in Jacksonville, Fla.
This season, Cummings sensed he would have to speak up more whether he wanted to or not.
"I had to transition from the quiet leader to the vocal leader and it was tough because it really isn't the person I am," Cummings said.
Cummings didn't play much as a freshman, but he has been starting since his sophomore year. As a sophomore, he would defer to the seniors, who had the leadership role down pat as the Owls went 24-10 and earned a bid to the NCAA tournament.
Last season, Cummings led on the court, averaging 16.8 points and 4.6 assists, but the Owls went 9-22.
This year he is scoring a little less and leading a lot more, and he has been the catalyst for Temple's resurgence. He is a first-team all-American Athletic Conference and all-Big Five choice.
"He has led us throughout the season," senior guard Jesse Morgan said. "It has been an honor to play with him."
"He is a great teammate on and off the court," junior forward Jaylen Bond said. "We take our lead from him."
Cummings suffered a strained muscle in his lower left leg in a 63-56 loss to Tulsa on Jan. 10. The injury came while Temple was up, 35-24, with 16 minutes, 15 seconds left. He never returned.
Temple lost that game, 63-56. The following game, when Cummings was well below 100 percent, he scored just one point in 27 minutes during a 60-55 home loss to eventual conference champion SMU.
Cummings sat out the next game because of the injury and the Owls lost by 31 points at Cincinnati. Since his return after that loss, the Owls have won 13 of 16 games.
When Temple had to cope with the disappointment of not being selected to the NCAA tournament, two people had to face the music - coach Fran Dunphy and Cummings.
"I am very proud of him staying in the leadership role and letting the guys know that even though they didn't get into the Big Dance, that there were still games to come," his father said.
Cummings, who scored 51 points in Temple's two NIT wins, has expanded his repertoire. This season, he is doing a little bit of everything, averaging 14.9 points, 4.2 assists, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.9 steals.
"He has done everything you want in a leader and player," Dunphy said. "He comes from a terrific family and we will miss him."
Who: No. 3 seed Louisiana Tech (27-8)
at No. 1 Temple (25-10)
When: Wednesday at 9 p.m.
Where: Liacouras Center.
TV/Radio: ESPN2/WPHT-AM (1210).
Coaches: Louisiana Tech, Michael White (fourth season, 101-39); Temple, Fran Dunphy (26th season, 502-270; 9th season at Temple, 192-107).
All-time series: Temple leads, 1-0.
Last meeting: Temple won, 82-75, on Nov. 17 at the Liacouras Center.
Road to the NIT quarterfinals: Louisiana Tech beat Central Michigan, 89-79, and Texas A&M, 84-72; Temple defeated Bucknell, 73-67, and George Washington, 90-77.
About Louisiana Tech: Raheem Appleby, who scored 26 points in this year's loss to Temple, shot just 1 for 10 Monday in an 82-74 win at Texas A&M. . . . The Bulldogs won the Conference USA regular-season title but lost to UAB, 72-62, in overtime during the conference tournament semifinals. - Marc NarducciEndText