The coronavirus pandemic has affected many aspects of people’s lives and sports are no exception.
Throughout the ongoing pandemic, followers of Governors athletics have been left to wonder how their favorite APSU team has been affected and what to look forward to when teams are tentatively able to compete. This week, fans will be updated on the effects that COVID-19 has placed on the men’s basketball team.
Like the women’s team, APSU men’s basketball was able to complete last season before the pandemic plagued the sports world. The Govs fell in the semifinals of the OVC Tournament to Mu**ay State on March 6, just 10 days prior to the conference’s cancellation of all athletic competition.
While the program is not having to deal with a semester-long postponement of their season like many other of APSU’s athletic teams, COVID-19 has still affected the team in a multitude of ways, ranging from transfers both in and out of the organization to offseason workouts.
The team that head coach Matt Figger will be returning to the hardwood this season is much different than what he had last year. The Governors will be without six players from last years roster. Five of the six – Antwuan Butler, Sita Conteh, Eli Abaev, Matheus Silveira and Sam DeVault – transferred out of the program.
With the large loss of last year’s roster, fans may be concerned that the team will be slim, but in fact the opposite is true. Figger welcomes eight new players to Clarksville for the upcoming season, with six being transfers. Of the eight newcomers, four –Merdy Mongozi, Ibrahima Jarjou, Corbin Merritt and Mike Peake—are listed as frontcourt players and add some much needed depth to pair alongside reigning OVC Player of the Year, Terry Taylor.
Elton Walker, Tai’Reon Jospeh, DJ Peavy and Jordan Burchfield round out the backcourt led by the 2019-2020 OVC Freshman of the year in Jordyn Adams.
Over the summer, the Governors held their breath from mid-April to the later part of May after the All-OVC duo of Adams and Taylor decided to test the NBA draft waters. Both elected to return for the upcoming season; Adams on May 8 and Taylor on May 26. Following each of their decisions’, fans look for last year’s third-highest scoring duo in the nation to lead the Govs to their first OVC title since 2016.
With the return of Adams, the program returns one of the country’s best freshmen from a season ago. The former three-star recruit and Silsbee, Texas native averaged an impressive 17.4 points per game. This ranked fourth nationally among freshman in the nation. Adams was one of the most awarded freshmen in OVC history last year, as he was named OVC Freshman of the Week 10 times. This earned him not only OVC Freshman of the Year honors, but also a spot on the All-OVC team.
In Taylor, APSU returns one of the top players in all of college hoops as well as one of the greatest student-athletes in Austin Peay history. The 6-5 guard/forward from Bowling Green, Ky is coming off one of the greatest seasons in recent memory. As a junior, Taylor ranked top-15 nationally in a multitude of areas that include: points per game, 21.8 (13th), rebounds per game, 11.0 (10th), offensive rebounds per game 4 (8th) and 18 double-doubles (seventh).
Taylor will look to build on these already impressive numbers as he also approaches APSU and OVC all-time records. Currently, the senior ranks fourth in career points, rebounds and made field goals in school history. As for OVC records, Taylor ranks 15th in points, 10th in rebounds, second in offensive rebounds and 13th in made field goals.
While fans many be excited to see Adams and Taylor return to the court in the winter, the team also returned six players from last year’s squad. Carlos Paez, Codey Bates and Alec Woodard return after impressive freshman campaigns. Devon McCain enters the season as a redshirt freshman this season following a preseason injury that robbed him of his seeing the court last year. Reginald Gee returns for his second stint as a graduate student after being sidelined prior to conference play last year.
Coming into the season, the Govs look to keep one of the country’s longest home winning streaks alive. Currently, the team is on a 16-game winning streak in the Dunn, with their last loss being a 73-71 final second defeat at the hands of the Racers on February 14, 2019. Last season, the team was just one of 13 teams in all of D1 basketball to be unbeaten at home. Over the last two seasons, the program is 24-2 at home and is 37-7 in the Dunn during the Matt Figger era.
Under Figger, the team has yet to make it out of the semifinals of the OVC Tournament. However, after returning the dynamic duo of Adams and Taylor, other key players and an impressive transfer portal haul, look for APSU men’s basketball to not just make it out of the semifinals, but make a run for the OVC title and March Madness come next season.