Owls look past final loss, see a strong team for fall

Posted: March 22, 2007

RALEIGH, N.C. - When asked Tuesday night after her team's 62-52 loss to Duke in the NCAA tournament at the RBC Center, Temple coach Dawn Staley said she was no longer interested in moral victories.

"It's just hard trying to get over this hump," the former WNBA all-star and three-time Olympic gold medalist said.

However, several minutes later, Staley praised her young Owls, who finished at 25-8, for how they had grown after having few expectations at the start of the season.

"This season is really a proud moment in my mind," Staley said. "We worked toward our goals. There weren't too many basketball games where we didn't play our hearts out. We could have been smarter in certain situations, but I am proud to be associated with this team and these young ladies."

This season's finish certainly had a better feel than a year ago when Temple was upset by America East champion Hartford in the first round.

After that game, it was expected the Owls would dip somewhat following the graduation of Candice Dupree, arguably the program's all-time best player.

The disappointment a year ago was because Temple had a shot at making a run to the Sweet 16. This edition of the Owls had the barricade of Duke, the top overall seed, to hurdle. So anything close to success would be considered a plus.

In November, as the season began, senior Kamesha Hairston took up the leadership role at forward and went on to follow Dupree as the Atlantic Ten women's player of the year. The native of Dayton, Ohio, has a good chance to also follow Dupree as a WNBA first-round draft pick when the annual selections are held next month in Cleveland at the site of the Women's Final Four.

Senior Fatima Maddox picked up her game down the stretch and could possibly also be selected by an WNBA team or catch on with one as a free agent.

Known for most of Staley's seven years for their guard play, the position at which Staley, a Dobbins High graduate, excelled at running offenses, the Owls are now being cited for their athleticism and the way they attack the backboards.

Center Lady Comfort returns, and Staley hopes she becomes the new leader.

Forward Shenita Landry improved as a sophomore and became part of a tenacious rebounding group that included freshman Jasmine Stone and junior forward-center Nicole Pittman.

LaKeisha Eaddy became the first freshman to start in the backcourt under Staley and played like a veteran more times than not. Ashley Morris, the former Central High star, finally made some headway as a junior, and Staley has indicated she will have the keys to run the offense with the departure of Maddox.

If Temple lacked anything Tuesday, it was a consistent three-pointer shooter. But that might be solved with the addition of future freshman Lindsay Kimmel, a 6-0 shooting guard from Binghamton, N.Y. The Owls will also pick up some size among the newcomers in 6-1 center Marli Bennett from Pilot Mountain, N.C., and 6-3 Shanea Cotton, a junior college transfer from Mississippi.

There's just one detail that will need some quick attention from Temple's administrators.

Staley's contract is up in July, and there are a bunch of high profile vacancies out there at such places as Texas, Florida, Arkansas and Washington.

Judging by her demeanor Tuesday, Staley, who has never used money as a motivating factor, did not seem ready to change scenery. But her name will likely continue to pop up as a potential candidate at places with large coffers.

Contact staff writer Mel Greenberg at 215-854-5725 or mgreenberg@phillynews.com.

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