Temple's win over No. 1 Houston 'meant a lot' to former Owl Shizz Alston
Shizz Alston woke up Monday morning nearly 7,000 miles away from where he grew up and starred as a point guard at Temple. He’s playing now for SeaHorses Mikawa, a pro team in Japan.
Alston rolled over in bed, checked his phone, and something caught his attention – the score of Temple’s game at No. 1 Houston.
Fourteen hours behind back in America on Sunday afternoon, the Owls were tied with the Cougars at halftime on a nationally-televised stage on ESPN.
“I was like, ‘Oh, man, I’ve gotta stay up for the rest of this,’” Alston recalled. “So I watched the whole second half.”
Alston was glad he did. He saw Temple pull off a 56-55 win on the road against the top-ranked Cougars, marking the program’s first win over the nation’s No. 1 team in nearly 23 years.
For a former player like Alston, it felt validating. A season that has seen its share of maddening moments and losses that should not have happened got a shot in the arm and a sense of promise and optimism of what could still be. The Owls are now 12-9 overall and alone in second place in the American Athletic Conference standings heading into Wednesday night’s game against USF at the Liacouras Center.
“It just meant a lot to me,” said Alston, who scored 1,597 points in his four-year Temple career before getting a shot with the Philadelphia 76ers’ G League affiliate and then moving on to an overseas pro career that has included stops in Greece, Belgium and now Japan. “Because when I'm home, I try to get in the gym with those guys as much as possible. Me and (Owls guard) Khalif (Battle) have a relationship stemming back to when he was about six years old because I played with his brother, Tyus, in AAU. So I'm constantly working out with Khalif when I'm home. (Temple sophomore forward) Zach Hicks has joined a couple of workouts. (Temple guard) Damian Dunn, I’ve known him since he got to campus. So I just know how much work they put in.
“And, you know, it's been some rough times this year, but I know that they all want to win, and especially Coach (Aaron) McKie. I know how much he means to me, how much he means to the city. So for him to get that win with all the noise that I've been seeing on Twitter, things about him, it just meant a lot because I know how much he puts into the program. I used to get there six o'clock (in the morning) and workout before the guys, and he was there with me in the morning, so I know how much time and effort he puts in. So to see it pay off on a national stage like that on ESPN, it meant a lot.”
In the first part of his conversation with OwlScoop.com this week, Alston talked more about McKie, his former coach and current La Salle head coach Fran Dunphy, how the NCAA’s transfer portal and Name, Image and Likeness have affected college basketball and much more.
There’s plenty left to do if Temple wants to get back into the NCAA Tournament conversation, and Alston knows the Owls were right to have that goal in mind at the outset of McKie’s fourth season.
Can they do it? And can McKie get the Temple program back on the national stage, back to what it was when his father, Levan, played for the late Hall of Famer John Chaney?
“Oh, absolutely,” Alston said.