Who is the OVC’s Next Big Thing?
(St. Louis, MO) – There are great players in the Ohio Valley Conference, and many of them with years of eligibility remaining, but who will be the league’s next dominant player? There are several candidates, but first a look at the current wave of OVC stars.
There are prominent stars like Eastern Kentucky’s Nick Mayo, Murray State’s Jonathan Stark, the under appreciated Denzel Mahoney (SEMO) and the Belmont duo of Dylan Windler and Amanze Egekeze. That group and several others are the current OVC standard bearers.
But there is a group of freshmen that are good now and should catapult the league to higher heights than we have known.
SEMO freshmen Ledarrius Brewer and Justin Carpenter are the perfect duo to complement the dynamic Mahoney who is just a sophomore. Those three have the potential to push the Redhawks into legitimate title contention in the next two years.
Coach Rick Ray told me Brewer reminds him of former Redhawk and current NBA player Antonius Cleveland and says Carpenter is a legitimate ‘stretch 4’ that is fundamentally sound. Brewer (11.7 ppg) and Carpenter (10.8) both rank in the top 30 in OVC scoring. Brewer can fly and he can dunk!
Mayo, EKU’s outstanding junior (Mayo) is joined by the impressive Dedric Boyd. His 15.2 point scoring average is second among all the rookies and he shared the opening week ‘Freshman of the Week’ award with Belmont’s Nick Hopkins. A three-star recruit coming out of high school, the 6’4 Boyd is burying 87% of his shots from the free-throw line and leads the Colonels with 19 three-pointers.
The most spectacular freshman through the non-conference schedule has been Austin Peay’s Terry Taylor. After the 6’5 Taylor blew up for 27 points against Troy, he now leads first year players with a 15.5 points per game (9th overall). He is 6th in rebounding grabbing 7.8 caroms per game and leads the OVC in offensive rebounding with 4 per game. Taylor has won the ‘Freshman of the Week’ award three times.
In 11 Division 1 games, Taylor has reached double figures eight times and has scored 57 points in the Governors’ last two contests. Like the duo at EKU, Taylor has a class mate that complements his game and bodes well for future APSU seasons. Dayton Gumm, received a ‘Freshman of the Week’ title too and is averaging 12.6 points per game. He’s topped double digits six times in his opening 11 contests.
But for my money, the ‘next big thing’ in the OVC is Murray State guard Ja Morant. I know he shot poorly (two for 10) in the Auburn game, but this kid has it all. I recently uttered the words ‘Fred VanVleet-like’ on Jeff Bidwell’s radio show in Paducah. He doesn’t look like VanVleet. Their builds are nothing the same, but the 6’3 guard can do EVERYTHING, and the game is already slowed down for him.
He is in control.
For Matt McMahon to give him the proverbial ‘keys to the car’ as a freshman is staggering. The Racers are playing for big things in the OVC, and his lead guard is a rookie! So you want some numbers? Here they are.
He averages 11.5 points per game. He is 14th in REBOUNDING as a 6’3 guard. He is second to Belmont’s Austin Luke for the OVC lead in assists with 6.5 per game. He’s not yet a polished three-point shooter, but is making 87% of his free throws and plays over 30 minutes per game for the 7-3 Racers. He played 37 minutes against Auburn on Tuesday.
There are times when he explodes off the floor for a rebound or dunk, that simply shocks you. His control with the basketball defies his age and inexperience.
After the Racers visited Saint Louis U, I spoke with McMahon and SLU head coach about the athletic Morant. McMahon says he makes other players better and Ford was impressed with his athletic ability.
There is a wave of talent in the league and some of the best talent is in that freshman class. The potential for the OVC to do some national damage is very real.