Over the past three seasons with coach Matt Figger at the helm, the Austin Peay men’s basketball team has produced 61 wins, 39 of which coming in conference play.
The three year stretch of OVC victories is the best for the program in the past 10 years. Now, Figger may have to find ways to continue his success after potentially losing four starters alongside his top two scorers.
Jordyn Adams and Terry Taylor both announced their decisions to enter into the NBA draft this past week. The duo averaged a combined 39.2 of the Govs 76.3 points per contest, over half of the team’s total. Both players are maintaining their eligibility throughout the draft process, meaning there is a possibility for their return.
Adding the transfers of Eli Abaev, Sam DeVault and Antwuan Butler, as well as the graduation of Evan Hinson, the Governors could be left with seven returning players from last year’s squad. Of those seven, the top returning scorer would be Carlos Paez, who averaged 6.5 points per game in 2020.
A lack of returning players would not be Figger’s first experience with a new roster: last season, the Govs returned just four players from 2019, Taylor being the lone starter from a year ago.
Losing Taylor and Abaev would significantly hurt the Governors in the rebounding department. The Governors, who were the Ohio Valley’s top team in offensive boards last year, would have to cope with a loss in half of the team’s offensive rebounds as well as 18.7 of the Govs total boards from the 2020 season.
The Governors under Figger have been reliant on defense since the coach’s arrival. Hypothetically losing your top two defenders in Adams and Taylor cannot help, but the return of Alec Woodard is a nice consolation: Woodard started the final three games of the season, replacing Paez as a defensive stalwart.
Figger praised the freshman after his third start of the season in the OVC quarterfinals, saying “He’s as good of an on-ball defender as I’ve got on my team. He’s won, and he doesn’t do anything else outside of our team. He stays within who he is, he has an identity, he has a role, and he understands that role.”
Woodard’s consistency in a starting role next season would propel the Govs defense out of their middle-of-the-pack ranking in the OVC. With more opportunities in 2021, his 40% clip from beyond the arc this season may also improve the Govs 34% total as a team.
The Governors offense may take a hit from the potential departure of Adams and Taylor, but with the early additions from junior college transfers Elton Walker (12.9 PPG, 32% 3PT) and Merdy Mongozi (2.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG), as well as Oklahoma transfer Corbin Merritt (former three-star recruit), Figger’s team will be more than capable to compete in the Ohio Valley come next season.
In the event of the duo’s return to Clarksville, the Govs will look to maintain a top-two offense in the conference and begin their season with hopes of a top 25 ranking in the country, according to Stadium basketball insider Jeff Goodman.