With extra season, Wadley adds spice to Owls offense

Rule change allows guard to play an extra season

NCAA Tournament

March 23, 2001|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA - None of the NBA's top 10 scorers played four seasons of college basketball. Californian Tyson Chandler is the latest high schooler to announce that he's turning pro, and assorted minor leagues are littered with players who left college early, to their regret.

Which makes the case of Quincy Wadley all the more refreshing.

Wadley is the senior guard from Harrisburg, Pa., who has shot Temple into a Sweet 16 game against Penn State tonight, in a South Regional matchup at the Georgia Dome. The 11th-seeded Owls didn't get this far last season, when they had more talent, but lost in the second round. Wadley was a senior then too, but his persistence and an NCAA rule change produced another season and a remarkable surge for coach John Chaney's 19th Temple team.

Last summer, the NCAA agreed to grant an additional year of eligibility to academic non-qualifiers who went on to earn a degree in four years. Wadley sat out the 1996-97 season and grew into a solid starter for the Owls last season, which ended in a waiting game with policy makers and his studies. He and Monty Mack, an Atlantic 10-rival from Massachusetts, were among the players who took advantage of the rule change.

"I was blessed," Wadley said. "I thank the NCAA. They gave me and Monty Mack another opportunity. Without that, I wouldn't be here. This has become a positive for me. I got a chance to graduate, and another year of [graduate] school out of it. You can't beat that. My family always wanted me to graduate from school, and I was able to do that and learn more basketball from Coach Chaney. You never want to take that away.

"Toward the end of last season, he [Chaney] told me that the rule would be changed, and I could earn back the fourth year, I just had to hold up my end of the bargain. There was no doubt that I would get it done, but I took it right down to the wire, until the end of August. I took nine credits in the first summer session, and nine more in the second. That wasn't new. I've never taken a break since I got to Temple."

Chaney will vouch for that, even if he wasn't immediately endeared with Wadley, who committed to the Owls, then said he wanted to take one more recruiting visit. A pretty good quarterback for Harrisburg High, Wadley dreamed of playing two sports for North Carolina.

"Penn State was recruiting him too," Chaney said. "He always wanted to go to Carolina, and when he committed to us, he asked, could he make one more visit. I said `You make that visit, that's your -.' He said `I'm coming, I'm coming.' You know how kids are. He just wanted to make the trip."

Wadley didn't do much traveling that first winter in Philadelphia, but he did learn by watching his future teammates. As a sophomore, he played more than 25 minutes a game, and scored 14 points in a second-round NCAA tournament upset of Cincinnati. He played through the tournament, incidentally, with a broken hand.

Another Wadley injury figured in Temple's slow start this season, as a seven-game losing streak, that included a close call with Duke, dropped the Owls to 4-7. Wadley missed four games with a shoulder sprain, the first being a 66-60 loss at Penn State on Dec. 9. He was averaging fewer than 10 points a game on New Year's Day, but Wadley has blazed through 2001, as hot shooting has upped his average to 15.5 points and his grit has helped the Owls to nine straight wins.

Wadley has made 25-for-43 three-pointers in the postseason, including five each in NCAA wins over Texas and Florida. Against the third-seeded Gators, the 6-foot-4 Wadley added a team-high 10 rebounds. It was the 10th straight game in which he has played every minute. Temple is a program that cherishes every possession, and Wadley symbolizes making the most of every opportunity.

"The kid stayed back," Chaney said. "He didn't think about leaving school, or trying out for a pro team. It's paid off. He's given us a lot of leadership, not just in what he does on the floor. He helps the younger guys who don't know what this is all about."

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