Tyreek Duren: La Salle's floor general

La Salle's Tyreek Duren greets fans after the Explorers' 76-74 win over Mississippi on Sunday. "He has meant everything since he's been here," La Salle coach John Giannini said of the point guard.                       RON CORTES / Staff Photographer
La Salle's Tyreek Duren greets fans after the Explorers' 76-74 win over Mississippi on Sunday. "He has meant everything since he's been here," La Salle coach John Giannini said of the point guard.                       RON CORTES / Staff Photographer
Posted: March 28, 2013

LOS ANGELES - Tyreek Duren has an old-school game that translates well even in the modern era of college basketball.

His game is based on fundamentals, intelligence and pace. La Salle's junior point guard never seems to be in a hurry, methodically sizing up a situation and then seizing the moment.

Duren almost took that game to Temple instead of La Salle.

The Explorers (24-9) are preparing for Thursday's Sweet 16 game against Wichita State (28-8) at the Staples Center. It is hard to imagine them being there if Duren had decided to play for Temple instead.

Both schools recruited the Neumann-Goretti point guard, who was thinking about becoming an Owl instead of an Explorer.

"I wanted to play with those guys at Temple," Duren said Tuesday after practice at Southern Cal's facility. "I am friends with those guys, Khalif [Wyatt], Rahlir [Hollis-Jefferson], Scootie [Randall], so I wanted to go there."

But just as he does on the court, Duren sized up the situation. He saw a logjam at point guard.

"Temple had Juan Fernandez, and I wanted to play right away," he said. "I wanted to think about it from a basketball standpoint and whether I would be playing if I got there."

Fernandez was two years ahead of Duren.

La Salle coach John Giannini offered Duren something that Temple could not: immediate playing time.

"I was on the phone with Coach G and he said we were losing Rodney [Green] and don't have a point guard," Duren recalled. "He said, 'Come in and I will hand you the ball for four years.' "

Green averaged 18.5 points in 2009-10, his final La Salle season. Since then, Duren has made his mark running the La Salle offense.

"He has meant everything since he's been here," Giannini said.

The La Salle coach said that Duren was recruited to be a cornerstone player and that he has lived up to expectations.

"We are always confident when the ball is in his hands," Giannini said. "I think he's as good as any point guard in the country."

Duren said it has been a great experience.

"You can't ask for a better situation," Duren said. "I came in knowing I had four years to improve every year, and I have been doing that since I got here."

The statistics bear that out. In each of his three seasons, Duren has increased his scoring. He is a scoring point guard but often looks to pass first.

As a freshman, he averaged 9.8 points. Last season, he averaged 13.2. As a junior, Duren earned second-team all-Atlantic Ten honors. He is averaging 14.4 points and 3.2 assists in a team-high 34.4 minutes per game.

Duren is more than just a scorer. As a leader, he has a calm demeanor on the court even when things get out of hand. His cerebral style combined with his Philadelphia toughness make Duren a floor general.

"A lot of schools don't have a point guard like Reek, " La Salle's Ramon Galloway said. "He gets you in the right place to be, but when it is time to score, he can score."

In La Salle's first two NCAA wins over Boise State and Kansas State, Duren found himself in a slump, shooting a combined 2 for 13 from the field and scoring just five points. At times he seemed tentative.

"The first two games, I felt I was letting the team down and I wasn't being aggressive," he said. "I decided I had to be more aggressive."

Good decision.

Duren contributed 19 points, four rebounds and two assists Sunday in a 76-74 win over Ole Miss.

Players lead in different ways. Duren is not very boisterous, but has the full attention of his teammates.

"He is more laid back, but it's Reek's game that speaks for itself," Galloway said.

Duren gives La Salle a comfort level when he runs the point.

"Tyreek is the guy who has the ball a lot and a person in control and makes great plays and great decisions for us," Giannini said. "He has been very special for us."


Contact Marc Narducci at mnarducci@phillynews.com. Follow @sjnard on Twitter.

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