Check Ball: Khalif Wyatt

Khalif Wyatt

Watching Khalif Wyatt in one summer league game, it is apparent why Coach Fran Dunphy wanted the 6-3 combo guard on his team.

Watching Khalif Wyatt in one summer league game, it is apparent why Coach Fran Dunphy wanted the 6-3 combo guard on his team.

Wyatt, a Norristown High School graduate, will be a freshman at Temple this year after picking the Owls over Delaware and others.

He exhibits a soft touch on his jumper and range to go with it. His ballhandling skills are above average, as is his court vision. His basketball IQ is clearly high, and he is fiercely competitive.

It is also clear the areas Wyatt needs to improve. Though he is quick with his first step, he had difficulty finishing. He lost a couple rebounds to stronger players, and he didn't run the floor particularly well.

To Wyatt's credit, he acknowledged his deficiencies and his plans to correct them by the time preseason practice rolls around.

"I've never been in good shape," Wyatt admitted. "In ninth grade, I was big – real, real big and out of shape. And I've been building up to this. Smarts got me through. But at this level everybody is smart, everybody is athletic, everybody can play.

"My biggest thing is getting in the best shape I can before September. That's my knock right now. When I get in good shape, the game will come easier. Coach Dunphy demands a lot out of your body. If I can't produce it, I can't help him."

In a Wilt Chamberlain High School League game last week, Wyatt scored 16 points on 7 of 15 shooting. He dished out four assists, collected four blocked shots and two steals and grabbed a rebound. He did not turn the ball over.

The blocks and steals were a source of pride for Wyatt, who averaged 18 points per game as a senior, but admitted he was often criticized for his defense.

"The knock on me the past few years is I'm not a good defender," Wyatt said. "I'm trying to show everybody when it's time to play, I can play defense."

On the majority of the blocks, Wyatt came off his man and ran a few steps with the shooter before deftly rising and swatting the ball away without drawing contact. In one instance, Wyatt collected the ball after the block and fired a pass downcourt as he hit the ground, leading to a breakaway layup.

"You have to get there with your feet, and then your hands make the plays," Wyatt said of his penchant for blocks. "I've improved my foot speed and that's helped me on defense."

Wyatt could have scored in the 20s easily, but of the 11 times he took the ball to the hole, he scored on just five occasions.

"I need a little bit more lift, so the ball will get there," Wyatt admitted. "These guys are a lot more long and athletic than what I saw in high school. I use my body well. I have to get over the defender."

Though it was just a summer league game, Wyatt showed elation and frustration at every turn in a competitive game that his team eventually won.

"I don't like losing," Wyatt said. "I don't want to get used to it."

Wyatt's shooting ability and passing skills – his four assists could have been higher had his teammates converted some nice feeds – make him the ideal college guard.

Whether Wyatt plays a significant role for the Owls this season or in the future will be determined by a number of factors – the return of Ramone Moore, the matchups in a particular game. But the incoming freshman doesn't want a lack of playing time to have anything to do with his not being ready.

"If I get in good shape, then I think there's a good chance I can play," he said. "I'm real excited for the opportunity."

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