Matt Figger – Part One – Firm Foundation
Loos & Martin Foundations Remain
(St. Louis, MO) – Matt Figger is building Austin Peay into an Ohio Valley Conference contender. He’s building it on the solid foundations built by former APSU coach Dave Loos and Figger’s former mentor Frank Martin.
Loos spent 27 seasons coaching the Governors to 420 victories, winning five regular season titles and four OVC tournament crowns. The St. Louis native was a four-time OVC ‘Coach of the Year’ and is the winningest head coach in APSU history.
Martin, with whom Figger worked for ten years at Kansas State and South Carolina, has a reputation of producing tough, hard-nosed teams and in those years the Martin/Figger coached teams won 213 games and last season went to the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four.
Austin Peay (10-10, 5-3), picked to finish 11th in the league’s preseason poll, but has surprised OVC watchers by winning their first four conference games. Figger says working on the Martin staff was a lesson in building a winning culture.
Replacing the legendary Loos at Austin Peay has been relatively easy for Figger because of the stability of the Governor culture and that Loos has been a staunch supporter.
Another part of the foundation at APSU is an elite freshman recruit, left behind by Loos. Figger feels extremely lucky that Terry Taylor, a four-time ‘Freshman of the Week’ was already part of the team. Taylor and late signee Dayton Gumm provide a great, long term foundation for the Governors. Figger says a lot of recruiting success comes down to luck.
The 6’5 Taylor is the league’s second leading rebounder (8.6 per game) grabbing a league leading 4.4 on the offensive glass. He is adding 14.9 points per game (10th in the OVC) while making almost 55% of his field goal attempts.
Five time ‘Newcomer of the Week’ Averyl Ugba was another late signee. The former Grambling State player, needed somewhere to play when his former school was under an APR ban. Figger says, once again, his team got lucky in the signing of Ugba. He goes on to say the Governor’s style of play is a bit ‘old school’ and Ugba and Taylor allow him to play the style he prefers.
The 6’7 Ugba brings 13.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game and he is second to Taylor in offensive rebounds with 2.7 per game.
Figger prides himself on building a team that wins the ‘toughness’ battles. Like teams under Martin at K-State and South Carolina, the Governors want to be aggressive on the glass, take care of the basketball and win the so-called 50-50 battles. He says, it’s a philosophy he learned and worked at under bombastic Martin.
In Part Two Figger discusses his first impressions of the OVC, some of his St. Louis area players, and he transparently answers questions related to last fall’s scandal that not only rocked college basketball, but touched close to home.