NEW YORK - The season had just ended a few minutes earlier at Madison Square Garden and already Temple coach Fran Dunphy was asked about next season - specifically, swingman Quenton DeCosey.

Capitalizing on the chance for some early motivation, Dunphy put the ball in DeCosey's court.

"He's had a good three-year career and now it's time for him really to step up and become a real leader for us next year," Dunphy said after a 60-57 loss to Miami on Wednesday night in the NIT semifinals. "That will be his role. And he's got the requisite talent to really do some good things as a college senior."

Temple finished 26-11 this season and received outstanding leadership from point guard Will Cummings while UMass transfer Jesse Morgan, another senior, brought an edge and some clearly needed offense.

DeCosey was second on the team in scoring (12.3 ppg.). He said he is ready to become a leader.

"I am definitely up for it," said DeCosey, whose last-second three-point shot would have sent the game into overtime but just missed. "We lose four great seniors, so, yes . . . I am definitely up for stepping up."

DeCosey, 6-foot-9 freshman Obi Enechionyia, 6-8 junior Jaylen Bond, and 6-2 combination guard Josh Brown will be the veteran nucleus next season. Devontae Watson, a 6-11 junior, will be in the mix.

Add 6-7 Daniel Dingle, who showed flashes after missing most of last season with a knee injury, and 6-3 Devin Coleman, the transfer from Clemson, and there are players to build around.

A strong recruiting class includes 6-4 guard Levan Alston (Haverford School), 6-10 center Ernest Aflakpui (Archbishop Carroll), and 6-5 shooting guard Troy Lowe (Ewing, N.J.) The Owls have two more scholarships to offer, so they may not be finished recruiting.

With this foundation, there is no reason to think Temple can't make a run at an NCAA berth next season. It was well documented that the Owls were the first team out, the 69th in the 68-team NCAA tournament, this year.

Much depends on the progress of players such as Enechionyia, who had 17 points, eight rebounds, and five blocked shots off the bench against Miami. He is an intriguing player who can score down low or hit a three.

In the opening game this season, against American University, Enechionyia scored two points in six minutes. The progress he made this season was dramatic.

"I will be working hard and try to get better at everything and try to play anywhere on the court and improve so I can help the team next year," Enechionyia said.

Temple has the pieces to remain highly competitive. Finding the offense and leadership to replace Cummings and Morgan will be difficult, but if DeCosey, Enechionyia, and others can handle expanded roles, the Owls appear to have a bright future.