PHILADELPHIA — An unpolished stone when he came to Temple, forward Tim Perry has become a gem on the basketball floor.
As a freshman, the 6-foot-9, 200-pound Perry averaged only 2.3 points and 3.9 rebounds in 30 games for an Owls' team that went 25-6. Under the guidance of Coach John Chaney, Perry has improved every year and, as a senior is averaging 16 points, 8.5 rebounds and nearly 4 blocked shots through the fifth-ranked Owls' first 13 games, all Temple victories.
"Without question, Timmy did not come in as a blue-chip athlete," Chaney said. "You have to understand that. And now he's an All-American in my opinion and is considered one of the finest players in the country.
"Timmy is a home-grown kid we spent a lot of time teaching and working with. He's got a lot of confidence in himself. He's a player who knows he will play well every time out."
And he has done that this season, having highs of 24 points against George Washington, 12 rebounds against UCLA and South Carolina and 7 blocked shots against Penn State.
"I know the main thing is I have to play well and be consistent," Perry said. "I can't have a night where I get only five rebounds or have an off-night. Every night I have to be there and run the floor."
The common denominator in Perry's career is that he has been there.
As a freshman, he started 30 games and led the team in blocked shots with 35.
As a sophomore, he was the nation's second-leading shot blocker, averaging 4 rejections a game. In fact, his 123 blocks were 26 more than the entire Temple team had the previous year. Starting all 31 games, he averaged 11.6 points and 9.5 rebounds.
As a junior, he started all 36 games, averaging 12.9 points and 8.6 rebounds. Becoming a more confident offensive player, he scored in double figures in 28 games and he was 10th in the nation with 116 blocked shots.
"I'm more offensive-minded now," Perry said. "But we're not a team that depends on one guy to score. We're well balanced. I won't get 20 to 25 shots a game. I'll get what comes to me. If I'm open, I'll take a shot. If not, I'll send the ball back out."
Perry has perhaps made his most improvement as an offensive player but Chaney said he was more gifted than even the coaches knew.
"He came in with some tools offensively that we didn't even know he had," Chaney said. "His short hook is something we discovered he had after he had been in school for a year. We saw him shooting at a side basket and making it and we said, 'What's that?' He said, 'Coach you never told me to shoot it.' "
That probably was about the only thing Perry never heard from Chaney, who admits he "fusses" with his players. That means he yells at them.
"When we're watching film, he'll point out if I'm just standing around," Perry said.
And he'll do it loudly.
"I didn't really know him until I got here," said Perry, who grew up in Freehold, N.J., and said he knew he would attend Temple after visiting the campus. "But Coach Chaney doesn't play around. If you don't want to play, you might as well stay home. He's real stubborn.
"You don't play with him. I tried to take everybody's advice and not cross him but I did a little backsliding my first year and he was on my case. He even called my parents to tell them I was skipping a few classes. I was really surprised."
Since then, he said he has stayed out of Chaney's doghouse for off-the-court activities.
On the court, Perry has become one of the leaders for a Temple team that tied the school record with its 13-0 start and that has become a prime target for its opponents.
"They come at us much harder," he said. "It started last year after we got some notoriety. Teams were psyched up to play us, especially when we were on the road. The teams came at us hard and emotional."
Perry knows that will be the case all season and he said it can only benefit the Owls in the NCAA tournament.
"Everyone prepares for the games mentally tough," he said. "We can't play by emotions. We have to go out and try to establish our defense and offense as quickly as possible. We have to establish how the game is going to be played right away."
And that has meant Temple victories.
"That's basically it," Perry said. "Just play hard. No frills or anything like that."
A good description for the team. And for Perry.