Temple can count on Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson

Posted: March 22, 2013

DAYTON, Ohio - Traditionally, a glue guy on a basketball team is the person who does all the unheralded work.

He lacks superior talent but compensates with his work ethic. Instead of scoring baskets, he makes it possible for teammates to do so.

"A lot of people say Rahlir is our glue guy, but I think he does even more than that," Temple guard T.J. DiLeo said of undersize power forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson. "He makes big plays. He's not just a guy that's doing the unsung stuff. He really does make big plays when we need it."

Ninth-seeded Temple (23-9) will look for him to do both against eighth-seeded North Carolina State in Friday's NCAA East Regional matchup at the University of Dayton Arena.

The 6-foot-6, 215-pound senior will have to fight for rebounds with Wolfpack forward C.J. Leslie (who stands 6-9) and center/forward Richard Howell (6-8). He's also sure to draw one of the toughest defensive assignments. And Hollis-Jefferson will need to make mid-range jumpers against N.C. State (24-10).

The Chester native said he is up to the task.

"These days leading up are like preparation," said Hollis-Jefferson, who averages 8.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, and a team-leading 1.8 steals per game. "I've been playing fairly well. And as long as I keep playing well, like I did last game, we will be all right - everything will fall into place."

Temple's last game was a 79-74 Atlantic Ten tournament quarterfinal setback against Massachusetts. As one of the Owls' few bright spots, the 21-year-old made 7 of 10 shots to finish with 17 points. He also had nine rebounds, seven assists, three steals, and no turnovers.

"Rahlir is a big part of what we do," guard Khalif Wyatt said. "And we need him to continue playing good. I think he's been playing good the last stretch of the season. We definitely are going to need another one of those performances out of him on Friday."

Hollis-Jefferson's value is best summed up by what he has meant to the team over the last month.

He had career highs of 23 points and 18 rebounds in a Feb. 21 victory over La Salle. Hollis-Jefferson also produced three double-doubles over the last eight games.

Not bad for someone who has been playing out of position at Temple. At Chester High, Hollis-Jefferson was known as a high-flying swingman. His athleticism was always on display at the receiving end of designed plays producing alley-oop dunks.

"Playing power forward wasn't what I came here to do," he said. "But it's a role they needed me to fill, and that's what I am doing."

And Hollis-Jefferson has never complained about guarding players three to four inches taller and 20 to 30 pounds heavier.

"This was just really a way for me to get on the floor," he said. "That's what I wanted to do - just be out there on the floor. It was just a role, and I stayed."

However, playing power forward has its advantages. Hollis-Jefferson usually is quicker and more athletic than the post players guarding him.

"He can go by them," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "He's not going to be bothered by them. And that's going to create scoring opportunities for him. So he's done a pretty good job with that.

"But he's been so valuable."

Contact Keith Pompey at kpompey@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @pompeysgridlock.

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