By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Following a vote of Ohio Valley Conference head men's basketball coaches and communication directors, the League officially released its Preseason All-OVC Team and preseason poll Tuesday morning, previewing the upcoming Media Day sessions on Wednesday and Thursday.
Back for his fourth season in the purple and gold, Jr. Clay was once again named to the Preseason All-OVC Team, the third suck honor in his Golden Eagle career. The returning junior finished second in the league in scoring a season ago, averaging a whopping 17.3 points per game.
Clay led the Tech squad in scoring, minutes per game (34.3), and steals (43) while playing in 24 of the team's 27 games after missing the first three due to COVID-19 protocols. He averaged 2.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists while shooting 43.4 percent from the floor, 34.7 percent from distance, and 72.3 percent from the charity stripe.
The Chattanooga native joined an exclusive club among Golden Eagle hoopers, becoming just the fifth member of the program to earn either All-OVC First or Second Team honors at least three times in his career. Also in the group are Hall of Famers Kenny Sidwell (1954-58), Frank Jones (1972-76), and Stephen Kite (1982-86), as well as the program's all-time leading scorer, Earl Wise (1986-90).
He became just the second player in team history to start his career with three-straight 400-plus point seasons, joining Wise on the shortlist. The guard ranks as just the seventh to score 400 or more in three seasons in his career and the first since Kevin Murphy (2008-12, second on the all-time scoring list) did his final three seasons.
Clay represents one of 10 returning players for the Tech squad this season, a group that welcomes in seven newcomers, including five Division I transfers and a pair of freshmen. After missing the postseason the past three years, the Golden Eagles were selected to make the OVC Tournament field in the 2021-22 preseason predicted order of finish, picked eighth overall and just three points back of SIUE.
Competing in one of the most challenging non-conference slates in program history last season, Tech completed the year 5-22 overall and 5-15 in OVC play. Despite the challenges of numerous injuries and COVID-19 protocols, the Golden Eagles showed resolve down the stretch, capping the season with a pair of victories over in-state foe Austin Peay and long-time OVC rival Murray State.
Back to join Clay in the backcourt for the third year in a row is guard Keishawn Davidson, who averaged 11.1 points and a team-best 4.4 assists per game last season. The Murfreesboro native became just the third Tech player to account for 100+ assists in his freshman and sophomore season, totaling 118 in 27 games.
Also returning are forwards Shandon Goldman and Amadou Sylla, bringing back 4.5 and 5.4 rebounds per game, respectively. Returning freshman Austin Harvell is poised to build off a strong rookie campaign while fellow returning first-year forward Kenny White Jr. will look to continue where he left off after missing the final 17 games of the year with an injury.
Joining the Tech forces from other Division I institutions, bringing a wealth of experience and leadership, are Diante Wood (Jacksonville/Alabama), Daniel Ramsey (Xavier), Mamoudou Diarra (Cincinnati), Caleb Christopher (Arizona State), and John Pettway (South Alabama).
Tech will provide its first glimpse of the year for fans in a 7:30 p.m. CT exhibition tilt with Berea on Thursday, Oct. 28 as part of Purple Palooza. The Golden Eagles will officially kick off the new slate with its season opener at Memphis on Tuesday, Nov. 9.
Season tickets for Tennessee Tech men's basketball are now on sale. To order, call (931) 372-3940, visit the Hooper Eblen Center ticket office or visit TTUSports.com.
2021-22 Preseason All-OVC Men's Basketball Team
F - Johni Broome, Morehead State
G - Tevin Brown, Murray State
G - Jr. Clay, Tennessee Tech
G - Chris Harris, Southeast Missouri
G - Carlos Marshall Jr., Tennessee State
G - Grayson Murphy, Belmont
C - Nick Muszynski, Belmont
G - Skyelar Potter, Morehead State
G - Luke Smith, Belmont
F - KJ Williams, Murray State
Preseason Co-Player of the Year: Grayson Murphy, Belmont
Preseason Co-Player of the Year: Johni Broome, Morehead State
2020-21 OVC Men's Basketball Preseason Poll
1. Belmont (17 first-place votes) – 161 points
2. Morehead State (3) – 141
3. Murray State – 136
4. Southeast Missouri – 101
5. Tennessee State – 84
6. Austin Peay – 76
7. SIUE – 65
8. Tennessee Tech – 62
9. Eastern Illinois – 43
10. UT Martin - 34
Photo by Thomas Corhern