In The Zone
Tennessee State star Rob Covington has the NBA’s attention.
by Ed Isaacson / @nbadraftblog
The mid-major basketball conferences have gone through a general resurgence lately, but the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) may be one of the biggest benefactors of this.
With the national recognition of the Denver Nuggets’ Kenneth Faried (Morehead State) to Murray State’s undefeated start led by All-American Isaiah Canaan, and the recent second-round selection of Tennessee Tech’s Kevin Murphy, the OVC is riding a wave of popularity into this upcoming season.
While Canaan is returning to Murray State for his senior year, he may have some competition for the top player in the conference.
Tennessee State is coming off their first 20-win season in a very long time, and they have most of their core players back this season, including All-OVC forward, Robert Covington. Covington is coming off a season where he averaged almost 18 points and 8 rebounds a game, but it isn’t enough for him.
“Our goal is to be better than last season,” Covington said. “We want to win the OVC and make it to the NCAA Tournament. I want to help give my teammates that opportunity.”
Standing in their way will be Canaan and Murray State, but that doesn’t faze Covington. “We feel we are the team to beat this year,” Covington remarked. “Teams are going to be coming after us now, and we will be ready to take them on.”
It helps that Tennessee State was the team to end Murray State’s 23-game winning streak to start the season. Led by Covington’s 17 points and 8 rebounds, the Tigers pulled off the 72-68 upset in front of a nationwide audience when ESPN cut into its regular broadcast to show the game’s ending minutes.
“We were prepared for it, completely locked in,” Covington said. “We knew we were capable of winning and we handled our business.”
Covington knows he will need to be a big part of whatever Tennessee State accomplishes, and luckily he has the talent to handle it.
“My biggest strengths are probably my shooting ability, rebounding and just a knack for getting the job accomplished,” Covington said. “But, I still need to work on my ballhandling, while continuing to polish my strengths.”
Now that he is entering his senior season, the NBA will start to give a closer look to Covington. Covington himself is not surprised at the recent attention that OVC players have been getting.
“The talent has always been there,” Covington said. “There is a lot of talent in small schools, and if you go out and perform, the NBA will know where to find you.”
The journey to Covington’s next step starts this week when Tennessee State starts summer team workouts, and he knows exactly what is expected of him.
“I need to be more aggressive and be more of a team leader,” he said.
If he performs up to expectations, there is a good chance that he will be the next in the current line of OVC players who hear their name called on NBA Draft night.