Year One at Austin Peay
Matt Figger – Part Three
(St. Louis, MO) – Picked eleventh in the twelve team Ohio Valley Conference was not an enviable spot for first year head coach Matt Figger, but as he says he puts as much faith in preseason polls as the ground hog coming out of his hole in early February.
Here in early February, the Governors (13-10, 8-3) are in the ‘first division’ of the OVC, undefeated in six home conference games, have arguably the best newcomer in the league and the best freshman. Life in Clarksville is just fine thank you!
Figger spent ten seasons in ‘power 5’ conferences as an assistant under Frank Martin in the Big 12 (Kansas State) and Southeastern Conference (South Carolina), so one could imagine some culture shock would be in order, but Figger jumped in and has produced results in a big way.
With ‘money conference’ losses at Vanderbilt, Virginia, Oklahoma State and Illinois, the Governors were a respectable 5-7 heading into conference play.
Winning their first four OVC contests (all at home) boosted confidence and expectations. As Averyl Ugba was racking up ‘Newcomer of the Week’ awards and Terry Taylor doing the same to the ‘Freshman of the Week’ accolades, the Governor faithful could tell they have a solid future as long as Figger sticks around.
Like every other team in the league, the Governors are looking up at first place Belmont. The Bruins (18-6, 10-1) have won or tied for the OVC regular season title in each of their five seasons in the league.
Figger says the key to the Belmont success is that head coach Rick Byrd knows what he wants and is comfortable with who he is.
In Part One – Firm Foundation, Figger discussed the foundation laid at Austin Peay by long time coach Dave Loos and the deep convictions he has developed working under Martin.
His former boss’ side-line demeanor is one of contortions, scowls, and stomping up and down the court. Figger says Martin actually feels like he is playing in every game he coaches.
Figger says he’s been impressed by the OVC, while recognizing that it is a league with a high turnover rate. The OVC has a high percentage of transfer players and thus a fairly large ‘face-lift’ annually.
While not neglecting junior colleges or other transfers, Figger would prefer to build more for the long haul. Freshmen Taylor, Dayton Gumm and Richard Henderson are players on whom he can build.
Henderson is one of three St. Louisians on the team. Zach Glotta (Fort Zumwalt North) and Steven Harris (Webster Groves) are the others. Neither Glotta nor Harris, both juniors played very much prior to this season, but have become important contributors to this year’s squad.
Figger says Glotta and Harris have very different skill-sets, but have at time played important roles this season.
With seven games left in the regular season, Figger is keeping his team focused on what can be accomplished. Their record against the remaining opponents points to a strong finish.
In Part Two – The Scandal, Figger spoke very openly about the scandal that rocked college basketball and touched people near and dear to his own heart. He was forthright and refreshingly honest about a sensitive subject.