Merritt among offseason departures

In an interview with The Temple News, redshirt sophomore guard Monaye Merritt confirmed that she has officially transferred from Temple University and will attend Nova Southeastern University in the upcoming fall semester.

“[Nova Southeastern] is a winning program,” Merritt said. “There’s a slot immediately for me to come and play. My major [of Kinesiology] there is really good. When I went down there, I was able to be myself and it felt natural.”

The Philadelphia native from Friends’ Central High School is now the fourth Owl from the 2013-14 roster to leave the program and the seventh departing player in the last two seasons. Rateska Brown, Jacquilyn Jackson, May Dayan, Leah Horton, Meghan Roxas and Sally Kabengano complete the list of non-returning Temple players between the 2012-13 and 2014-15 seasons.

By transferring to a Division II program in Nova Southeastern, Merritt will have the opportunity to play immediately in the upcoming season and she will spend her remaining two years of eligibility with the Sharks.

Serving as the backup point guard in 20 games for the Owls, Merritt averaged 3.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game last season, playing in nearly 15 minutes each contest. In a home loss to a nationally ranked Louisville Cardinals team, Merritt played a career game in place of starting guard Feyonda Fitzgerald, recording a career-high 14 points and adding five assists, five rebounds and four steals in 24 minutes.

Roxas named as one of four Owls to be departing team

Sophomore guard Meghan Roxas has received approval on her request to transfer and will look to move to another institution prior to the 2014-15 season, according to a report from Bret McCormick of All Star Girls Report.

Roxas was reportedly granted her release from Temple and will begin searching for a new school.

Before the news of Roxas’ intent to transfer, in an interview with junior guard Rateska Brown  –where she announced her own decision to transfer from Temple  – Brown said that former Owls forward Jacquilyn Jackson and two unnamed Temple players would be transferring during this offseason. With Roxas’ release, six players have left the Owls program in the last two years – including Jackson, Brown, May Dayan, Leah Horton and Sally Kabengano.

Roxas declined a request for an interview and a spokesperson for the team declined to comment. Last season, Roxas averaged nine minutes and played in 27 games, scoring 2.4 points per game.

Brown to transfer, says others will follow

Junior guard Rateska Brown confirmed last week that she plans to transfer ahead of the 2014-15 season to spend her final year of eligibility elsewhere.

Brown said that, including dismissed sophomore forward Jacquilyn Jackson, three other Owls will be transferring this offseason. Brown said that two of the players do not want their identities revealed yet.

“Yes, I’m transferring,” Brown said. “We always have meetings [with coach Tonya Cardoza] after the season is over about next year or how we had done in the past season, and there wasn’t even the option of coming back next year. It was suggested that I transfer.”

In an interview prior to the 2014 American Athletic Conference tournament, Brown spoke about her displeasure toward her reserve role for the Owls, and she later confirmed that the disagreement on the situation with Cardoza was one of her reasons for leaving Temple.

“I just thought it was going to be a fair season next year where everyone gets to work hard,” Brown said, referring to what she perceives as preferential treatment and favoritism by the Owls coaching staff.  “Whoever is the best at it gets to start, but I had doubts about next year. I had doubts that I was even going to come back, which I’m not.”

Prior to the 2013-14 season, Brown and Jackson were suspended from the team for a violation of team rules. Jackson was dismissed, but Brown returned as the Owls’ main weapon from the bench – averaging 7.8 points and 2.3 rebounds per game – and was rewarded with The American’s Sixth Player of the Year award.

During the past two seasons, Jackson, May Dayan, Sally Kabengano and Leah Horton left the team.

Fitzgerald earns final weekly honors

On March 4., freshman guard Feyonda Fitzgerald earned weekly honors from the American Athletic Conference and the Philadelphia Big 5.

For the fifth time this season, Fitzgerald was named The American Freshman of the Week, while she also earned Big 5 weekly honor roll honors for the fourth time this year

In two consecutive conference road games against Rutgers and Central Florida, Fitzgerald averaged 13.5 points per game, while shooting 8-for-10 from the free throw line. The freshman guard also tied a team-high in points in the Owls’ regular season finale against Houston, scoring 16.

Fitzgerald ended the regular season as Temple’s leading scorer, averaging 12.6 points and four assists.

Owls clinch first-round bye

Yesterday, after a delayed Southern Methodist-Central Florida game ended in a Mustangs victory, Temple was officially announced as the No. 6 seed in this weekend’s American Athletic Conference tournament.

With all the conference’s seedings finalized, Temple (14-15,8-10) will play in a quarterfinal contest against No. 3 South Florida (18-11,13-5) at 8pm on Saturday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut. The game will appear on ESPN3.

The Owls have lost both matchups against the Bulls this season. Most recently, Temple lost in the final seconds at the Liacouras Center on Feb. 22. In that game, Bulls’ sophomore guard Courtney Williams recorded a career-high 35 points, and was honored as the conference’s player of week in the following days.

Leading up to the tournament, Temple has won two consecutive games by 10 points or more, while USF is rolling with a five-game winning streak, including its most recent upset against a nationally ranked Rutgers team.

Fitzgerald receives weekly honors

This week, freshman guard Feyonda Fitzgerald was named to the American Athletic Conference and Philadelphia Big 5 Honor Rolls.

Collectively, Fitzgerald has now been honored by The American and Big 5 on eight separate occasions, including four American Freshman of the Week honors, being named to the Big 5 Honor Roll three times, and making it onto the American Honor Roll once.

In Temple’s most recent game, a loss to visiting South Florida, Fitzgerald was the Owls’ offensive leader, recording 23 points, four rebounds, and four assists. Against the Bulls, Fitzgerald shot 8 of 21, and was perfect from the charity stripe on seven attempts.

Fitzgerald has been an offensive threat for the Owls since her first collegiate start, averaging 12.4 points and four assists, which both lead the team.

Third week of honor rolls for Shipp

For the third time this season, fifth-year guard Shi-Heria Shipp has been honored in both the American Athletic Conference and Philadelphia Big 5 weekly honor rolls.

After being out of the starting lineup for seven consecutive games, Shipp started in Temple’s last two games against Houston and Memphis. Both games resulted in comfortable wins for Temple, and ended a season-long four game losing streak.

Against the Owls’ last two conference foes, Shipp has averaged a double double of 11.5 points and 12.5 rebounds, while shooting 11 of 20 from the floor. In both games, Shipp registered game-highs in rebounds, grabbing 12 boards against Houston and 13 boards against Memphis.

Shipp’s 15 points against Houston were the most she had scored since a Dec. 19 victory against Howard, when she scored 22.

The transfer from George Washington has continued to be one of the Owls’ top producers, averaging 9.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, and nearly two steals and assists, per game.

Brown honored in honor rolls

This week, junior guard Rateska Brown has been named to the Philadelphia Big 5 and American Athletic Conference honor rolls.

Brown has been an essential offensive weapon in the Owls’ recent two game winning streak — the team’s first winning streak since starting the season 3-0. Coming off of the bench, Brown has averaged 16 points in the last two conference games, including 15 points against Southern Methodist, and a season-high 17 points against Cincinnati.

In the last two games, Brown has been Temple’s most effective long range scorer, shooting a combined 7 of 15 from behind the three point line. Brown has averaged 36 percent from the floor this season, but in both of Temple’s last two meetings, Brown has shot over 50 percent.

Thames earns weekly conference honors

For the first time this season, senior forward Natasha Thames has been named to the American Athletic Conference’s weekly honor roll.

In her last two conference games, Thames has scored in double figures, including a 24 point effort in a loss to No. 5 Louisville. Against the Cardinals, Thames also recorded game-highs with nine rebounds and two blocked shots. In a win against Central Florida, Thames recorded 14 points, three rebounds, and two steals.

Thames is now the fourth Owl to be honored by The American this season, joining fellow starters Tyonna Williams, Feyonda Fitzgerald, and Shi-Heria Shipp.

Sophomore forward dismissed

According to athletic communications, sophomore forward Jacquilyn Jackson has been dismissed from the team due to repeated violation of team rules.

Athletic communications and coach Tonya Cardoza would not disclose the nature of Jackson’s violation, but earlier in the season, Jackson had also served a suspension for another undisclosed violation of team rules. Athletic communications did not confirm if the incidents were related.

Jackson returned from suspension and played ten minutes against St. Joseph’s for her only playing time of the 2013-14 season. Since the game against St. Joe’s, Jackson did not see playing time against the next four opponents. Jackson did not travel to the Owls’ American Athletic Conference opener against Memphis and was not present for home games against Louisville and Central Florida.

Last season, Jackson saw action in 23 games as a contributor from the bench.