It was only two years ago that now-Temple Owl basketball player T.J. DiLeo went out against Delran and scored 50 points, breaking an all-time school record and boosting his confidence toward a Division I college career.
DiLeo graduated Cinnaminson High School in 2008 and went on to begin his playing and scholastic career at Temple University. However, he was only able to play in five of the first eight games before suffering a stress fracture in his ankle that would sideline him for the rest of the season.
DiLeo received a medical redshirt that year and was able to start anew, with four more years of basketball to look forward to. That's pretty easy since he enjoys the school so much.
“I love it over here,” said DiLeo. “It’s close to home. I like living in the city. The basketball program has great fans. The campus atmosphere is really nice.”
The school’s close proximity to South Jersey has allowed DiLeo to attend many Cinnaminson basketball games, not only to watch his brother Max play, but also his alma mater have another 20-plus win season.
“It’s really a plus for me, especially during winter break when we were only practicing during the day and didn’t have class,” DiLeo said. “It’s easy for me to come back for the games since it’s only a 20-minute drive. I really enjoy watching them play. Cinnaminson teams always play hard and leave everything on the floor. It’s real fun especially when they’re playing good teams.”
Since going to Temple, DiLeo has appeared in 62 games, averaging 9.4 minutes per game and totals 103 points, 37 assists, 30 steals, 62 rebounds and two blocks.
DiLeo is majoring in marketing and could graduate as soon as next winter. After that, he will continue his scholarship and basketball career, while taking graduate courses. He hopes to follow in his father Tony’s footsteps one day.
“The ultimate goal is to stick with basketball for a long time, whether it’s overseas or coaching,” DiLeo said. “I want to do something similar to what my dad does. I’d like to play for a few more years out of college—most likely in Germany because I have dual-citizenship. That’s something I’d like to do.”
As a player, DiLeo’s greatest game came in a 57-53 win over St. Louis this year, where he played 24 minutes and scored seven points. This was during a stretch where point guard Juan Fernandez went down with an injury. Here, DiLeo made strides toward proving his role as an everyday player.
“I was in there down the stretch until the last minute,” DiLeo said. “So, offensively and defensively, that was my best game.”
DiLeo describes some of his favorite memories from this year in a win against then-10th ranked Georgetown and the second round buzzer-beater win over Penn State this year in the NCAA Tournament.
“The NCAA Tournament is an amazing experience,” DiLeo said. “I was lucky enough to be there three times as a Temple Owl and there’s nothing like it. Your adrenaline is rushing. This year, to get that win—especially the way we did it with the game-winning shot—it was just an amazing experience I’ll never forget.”
In his next two years with the program, DiLeo hopes to continue his role as the main on-ball defender for guards and prove to be a stellar all-around player. He also wishes to become a mentor and a team leader for the underclassmen, which is also something he hopes Cinnaminson head coach Mike Fries can project to the Pirates program for years to come.
“I hope I had an impact for Coach Fries and other people to use me as a role model—just to tell the kids that if you work hard and have good grades, anything can happen and you can get into a good school,” DiLeo said.