By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Thursday evening marks the soft opening of the 2021-22 season for the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team, as the Golden Eagles play host to Berea College in an exhibition bout at the Hooper Eblen Center at 7:30 p.m. CT.
The game represents the conclusion of the Purple Palooza doubleheader, the Tech women's basketball squad set to face Christian Brothers at 5:30 p.m. Doors open to the public Thursday at 4:30 p.m. as local businesses and organizations, as well as Tennessee Tech teams and student groups will host trick-or-treat stations around the Eblen Center concourse.
Back for his fourth season in the purple and gold, Jr. Clay was once again named to the Preseason All-OVC Team, the third such 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 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).
Last season, Berea finished 1-9 in limited action, playing a 10-game season in January and February due to COVID-19 protocols. The Mountaineers fell in each of its first nine contests on the year, but improved as the season went on, eventually closing out the year with a double-overtime victory over Brevard, 82-80.
Freshman Trey Minter led Berea in scoring last season, averaging 19.5 points per game, and returns to a backcourt featuring second-leading scorer Terique Miller (14.1 ppg).
Thursday's game – and all of the Purple Palooza event – is free and open to the public. 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 basketball are on sale now. Call (931) 372-3940, visit the Hooper Eblen Center ticket office, or log on to TTUSports.com to order yours today.
Photo by JSU Athletics