PHILADELPHIA -- Temple never expected to reach the NCAA tournament after its seven-game, midwinter losing streak - the school's worst in 20 years.
Then, point guard Quincy Wadley returned from a shoulder sprain and the Owls won five straight and began to look like a tournament-type team.
"I definitely said to myself, 'It's time,"' Wadley said after Sunday's 75-54 win over Florida sent the Owls into the round of 16 against Penn State. "I think I'm a player that likes to step up when my name is called. Right now, my team needs me to step up. I'm just trying to do a good job of leading."
Wadley's presence could mean the difference for 11th-seeded Temple in Friday's matchup with the seventh-seeded Nittany Lions. Wadley was out with a left shoulder injury in December, missing Temple's 66-60 loss to Penn State on Dec. 9.
But Wadley has been warming up. The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder has averaged 22.4 points per game in the last five games as Temple won the Atlantic 10 championship and advanced to the NCAA regional semifinals. He is shooting 35-for-62 (56.5 percent), and 21-for-34 from behind the 3-point line (61.8 percent).
For the season, Wadley is averaging 15.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game
"We had an early exit last year, and we didn't want to repeat those steps," Wadley said.
It's been a tough year for Temple, which had two players kicked off the team by coach John Chaney and another injured in the final stretch of the regular season. But Wadley - and others - say they are confident.
"We had a lot of ups and downs. But it built character, prepared us for this run," Wadley said. "Coach says a lot of things, and some of them I may not remember. He's always told us that the 10 guys in the locker room are the ones who will always be there. I knew we had a good team. We're still one of the best Temple teams out there."
Wadley almost didn't get to play this year. He graduated last summer with a degree in African-American studies, then took advantage of an NCAA rule change to get an extra year of eligibility to play this year. He is now getting a second degree in sports and recreation management.
Wadley also is active with a neighborhood youth group from North Philadelphia's St. Malachy School. He began working with the kids - ages 10 to 12 - when he noticed a handful of kids watching him practice a few years ago. Now, he helps with homework, takes them to dinner and invites them to rebound during practice.
A few times, Chaney has excused Wadley early from evening practice to escort the kids safely home.
"When you talk about the concept of the student-athlete, he's one of the guys who fits the definition," Chaney said. "The admirable thing is, he's not a young man who had it all handed to him. He had to overcome some speed bumps, you know, but that didn't stop him. It just made him stronger, that's all."
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