When thinking of LSU basketball greats, Garrett Temple may not immediately come to mind, but perhaps he should, considering Temple is second in school history in minutes played, eighth in steals and fifth in blocked shots.
The former University High School star is also one of nine LSU players to play on two SEC championship teams, starting for the 2006 and 2009 Tigers. That 2006 team reached the Final Four in Indianapolis, thanks largely in part to Temple's stellar defense on Duke shooting star JJ Redick in the NCAA Tournament. These days, he's in the NBA playing for the Washington Wizards, which were in New Orleans on Monday to take on Pelicans. The 6'6”, 195-pound Temple didn't play in that 92-85 Wizards' win, but he's certainly been a significant piece of a club that's posted a 23-11 record so far.
Temple has played in 26 games this season and started 13 of them, averaging 14 minutes per outing. During a four game stretch from late October into early November, Temple scored 12, 18, 17 and 16 points respectively. He's also suited up for the Houston Rockets, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Milwaukee Bucks and then Charlotte Bobcats during his five-year NBA career. Temple is also doing quite well financially, as ESPN.com lists his annual salary at $981,084.
We had the chance to visit with him in New Orleans on a variety of different topics and catch up with the former Tiger.
Do you think you've surprised people by reaching the NBA and lasting this long?
"I think so," Temple answered. "I think if you walked around Baton Rouge and asked people when I was coming to LSU, if they thought I'd be in the NBA five, six years…that would've surprised some people. Yeah, I've always been under the radar, the underdog, not highly touted. Being here this long and still producing and showing I belong in this league…I think that's surprised some people."
What got you here and what's kept you here?
"I think it's first and foremost my defense. And also my versatility, being a guy that can play multi-positions and guard multi-positions. Being a guy that's going to play hard, basketball IQ. I'm a guy that understands the game a lot from different perspectives. What's kept me here is my work ethic, perseverance. And just my character. A lot of guys have talent to get places, but you have to have character to stay there. I think my parents did a pretty good job instilling values in me. I've been able to use those, to stick in this league," Temple replied.
What's the biggest adjustment to pro ball, the 82-game regular season?
"Yeah, it's a long time. Whenever you tell people, like at this point, we have 50 games left, they're like ‘What? You have 50 games left?!' Yeah, it's a grind. Travel, the practice time, obviously. Injuries are going to happen. Coming out of LSU, I was the leader in minutes played in the history of the school. Coming here, understanding everyone has a role. You understand that, no matter what. You might not play for eight to 10 games and then you have to play for 35 minutes for three games, four games straight," Temple explained.
Was the defensive performance against JJ Redick the beginning of you really being known for your defense? (Redick was 3-18 from the field in a 62-54 Duke loss to LSU in the 2006 "Sweet 16")
"That's when I started getting national recognition. In the SEC, I was getting recognition when I was guarding Chris Lofton, Rashard Anderson, that UConn team that same season. My teammates started understanding what type of defender I could be. I started getting confidence and my coaching staff started to see what type of player I could be on the defensive end. And obviously, that Duke game showed the rest of the nation and put scouts on notice that I was a guy that could cause havoc defensively," Temple said.
It's really hard to believe and a bit scary, but roughly a year from now will be the 10-year anniversary of that Final Four team. What are memories of that season today?
"It was definitely the highlight of my college career. That team, that run, being there with guys I literally grew up with at the gym. Us making it all the way to the Final Four and on off the heels of what happened to the state of Louisiana, especially New Orleans with Katrina. You know, us playing for the whole state. Having them on our back, trying to create a respite for people to just look at sports. And for us to make it to the Final Four…I'm getting chills thinking about it, talking about it. I still keep in touch with those guys to this day. That was a heck of a run. Like I said, I get chills just thinking about it," Temple answered.
It's really amazing to reflect on all the talent that team had, right?
"Obviously Glenn [Davis], Tyrus [Thomas], myself, we all played in the NBA. You look at a guy like Magnum Rolle. He got drafted into the NBA. Tasmin Mitchell and Darrel Mitchell are both playing overseas at a high level. Darnell Lazare was in the rotation and played at a high level overseas. A guy like Chris Johnson didn't get off the bench, but played for three or four teams in the NBA, including the Boston Celtics with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. That's why we thought we should be in the Final Four. Other people didn't understand that," Temple replied.
What are your thoughts on the current LSU Tigers? They're on a winning streak and things are looking up.
"This team has talent. Jarell Martin, Jordan Mickey, Josh Gray is getting healthy, Tim Quartermann coming off the bench. All those guys have shown they can really play. Johnny [Jones] has done a great job with that team, with the work ethic they've shown. That big win at West Virginia reminds me of my freshman year when we won at West Virginia. And obviously, they have great recruiting with Ben Simmons signing and Antonio Blakeney committing. We're back on the rise," Temple added.
As many know, Temple is the son of Collis Temple Jr., who played at LSU from 1972-75, and brother to Collis III, who was a Tiger from 2000-2003.
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