After transferring to Center Hill from Olive Branch (Miss.) after his sophomore season, Calvin Temple thought he was in for a smooth transition. He had moved near the school and was packing his bags for a summer league game with the team when his mother, Lisa, stopped him and told him that he couldn’t play.
“I was like, ‘What? What do you mean?’” Temple said. “And she was like, ‘They ruled you ineligible today.’ And I was like, ‘For real?'”
Although Temple had moved, the MHSAA found that the house at his previous address that was outside the Center Hill (Olive Branch, Miss.) school zone was still occupied. MHSAA associate director Rickey Neaves said that the rule is that the entire family has to move for a player to be immediately eligible. This led to Temple being ruled ineligible for his junior season.
While the ruling was initially devastating, it led to the moment that defines Temple in coach Newton Mealer’s eyes. The moment that kicked off the yearlong period of reflection and growth that made Temple and Center Hill (22-2) even better this season than they thought they could be.
“His mother is crying. I’m telling her that he’s ineligible. And she looks up at me in tears and says, ‘I’m going to have to speak with Calvin, Coach. I just don’t think we can sit out his whole junior year,'” Mealer said. “And he puts his hand on his mom’s shoulder and says, ‘I’ve found a home. I’m staying. I’ll sit out my junior year if that’s what it takes for me to be at Center Hill.'”
Why Calvin Temple left Center Hill
The ruling had implications beyond just the Center Hill basketball season. It also affected Temple’s recruitment and caused some schools such as Memphis to cool their interest in the 6-foot-1 point guard.
“His mother asked (former Memphis) Coach (Tubby) Smith and his son who was on the staff at the time, ‘If Calvin sits out his junior year, what do you guys think about that?'” Mealer said. “And the comment out of their mouth was, ‘Well, you know, Ms. Temple, I hate to say this but out of sight is out of mind. We’re not saying we won’t recruit your kid anymore, but what we will say is that we’ve got to move on to the next guy that we can see on a daily basis.'”
In an effort to adapt to the situation, Temple left Center Hill last January for Aspire Basketball Academy, a school in Louisville, Ky. It’s a non-KHSAA school that recruits players from around the country and has played schools such as Tennessee Prep and Chattanooga’s Hamilton Heights this season.
“When I went to Aspire, it was like a dream because ever since I was little I was looking up to people playing in prep schools, like Andrew Wiggins and all them,” Temple said.
But, a little over a month later, Temple found himself back at Center Hill. He told Mealer that he would eventually come back to Center Hill, and he stayed true to his word.
“It was cool and all,” Temple said of playing at Aspire. “But I’d rather play at Center Hill with my friends.”
How sitting out a year made Calvin Temple better
Center Hill finished last season 22-10 and one game short of making the state tournament. This year, the Mustangs won their first 17 games, including wins over Whitehaven and Bearden, before losing to Starkville by one point. The Mustangs have won all their games since then, except for Friday’s loss to Olive Branch. Mealer said the strong start has a lot to do with Temple’s performance in practice.
“For an entire year he pushed our starters to where they are now, and that was a big, big deal for us because you can’t simulate guys of that ability,” Mealer said. “We get ready to play Olive Branch, or Memphis East, you can’t simulate that in practice. But when you have a guy like Calvin Temple on that second unit, you can simulate it a whole lot better.”
Temple, an IUPUI signee, is averaging 21.7 points, 5.2 assists, and 3.3 steals. He said that because he couldn’t play in a game, he would go extra hard in practice.
“I couldn’t play in a real game, so whenever we played in a scrimmage I tried to win. We were just competing. I wanted to help them get better. I think it helped,” Temple said.
Center Hill has four players averaging double figures in Temple, Kaeden Laws, Kevin Henry and Decorian Payton. Payton is averaging a double-double at 16.4 points and 10.4 rebounds. The balanced attack has the Mustangs in a strong position heading toward the end of the regular season.
“Everything went in the opposite direction that I wanted it to, but it happened for a reason and I’m grateful for it now,” said Temple. “It humbled me and made me better in ways other than basketball.”