By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team hits the road for a two-game, Thanksgiving-week road stretch, beginning with a Tuesday night match-up with Southern University in Baton Rouge, La. at 7:30 p.m. CT.
Tennessee Tech (1-3) at Southern (0-3)
Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016
7:30 p.m. CT
F.G. Clark Activity Center – Baton Rouge, La.
Radio: 106.1 The Eagle (Dylan Vazzano)
Tech hits the road for the final two games involved in the Global Sports Shootout, visiting Southern, Tuesday evening at 7:30 p.m. CT and Ohio, Friday night at 6 p.m.
Southern is in its sixth season under the direction of head coach Roman Banks.
The Jaguars boast a rich history under Banks, including last year's SWAC Tournament title and berth into the NCAA Tournament. The team, which finished 22-12 in the regular season, lost in the First Four, 59-55, to fellow No. 16 seed Holy Cross.
Southern is just one win away from its 100th under Banks, who also led the team to a regular-season title in 2013-14 and owns a 52-11 mark at home.
The Jags were picked third in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, falling just behind Texas Southern (1st) and Jackson State (2nd).
Southern returned two players to make the 2016-17 SWAC Preseason teams, including second-teamers Trelun Banks and Shawn Prudhomme.
The Jaguars own a 0-3 record in 2016-17, with losses at Ohio, Georgia Tech and Sam Houston State.
On the year, Prudhomme leads the Jaguars in scoring and rebounding at 17.7 points and 6.3 boards per game. Banks leads in assists (2.7) while also averaging double figures in scoring (16.3).
Tennessee Tech and Southern will meet for the first time in program history on Tuesday, the third such opponent for Tech.
The Golden Eagles are 7-2 all-time against the current membership of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, including a blowout victory over Alabama A&M, 95-61, last Thursday.
Last season, the Golden Eagles finished 2-0 against teams from the SWAC, earning home victories over Jackson State and Mississippi Valley State.
Tech's only losing record against the SWAC is an 0-1 mark against Alabama State.
SAM HOUSTON STATE RECAP
A resurgent comeback bid fell just short for the Tennessee Tech men's basketball Sunday afternoon, as the Golden Eagles battled back from a 20-point second-half deficit to within four points before ultimately falling to Sam Houston State, 78-71.
Picked to win the Southland Conference over perennial favorite and NCAA Cinderella, Stephen F. Austin, the Bearkats used a suffocating defense and lights-out shooting touch to leap out to a 24-3 advantage over the opening 10 minutes of the contest.
In that span, Sam Houston State knocked down 4-of-5 attempts from downtown while forcing 10 Tech turnovers.
At the end of it all, Tech out-rebounded its fourth straight opponent to open the year, hauling in 41 to Sam Houston State's 36 boards, including a 16-8 advantage on the offensive glass.
The turnover battle stayed equal, but the Tech offense struggled to shoot the ball for the third time this season, finishing at 35.5 percent from the field and 23.1 percent from down town.
Aleksa Jugovic led Tech with 23 points on a 7-for-11 night, including sinking four of his eight attempts from beyond the arc. He also drained all five free throw attempts while collecting four rebounds and two steals.
Mason Ramsey boasted a strong showing, scoring 14 points and grabbing five boards while Kajon Mack also posted double digits with 12 points. Mack also recorded four rebounds, four assists, and four steals.
Ja'Cardo Hawkins collected a season-high 10 rebounds and dropped in seven points while rejecting four shots.
Fellow junior college transfer Stephaun Adams posted a season-best 10 points while dishing out six assists.
TECH PICKED 4th IN OVC EAST
Tech was predicted to finish 4th in the East Division in the 2017 OVC race in voting by the league's head coaches and SIDs.
The 2016-17 Tech roster features 14 players (12 scholarship student-athletes) representing seven states and two countries.
Five Golden Eagle players hail from the state Tennessee, while Georgia represents the only other state boasting multiple Tech players. California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, and Oklahoma all represent home for one player each.
Two Tech players were born outside the United States, with two still living in their native countries when not in Cookeville. Aleksa Jugovic is from Serbia and Stephaun Adams was is from the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Tech has two seniors, five juniors, four sophomores, a redshirt freshman and two true freshmen.
Eight Golden Eagles stand 6-foot-5 or taller while the other six measure at 6-foot-4 or shorter.
After spending the 2015-16 season building his strength and size and working on his low post moves as a redshirt, Micaiah Henry looks poised to move into a starting role right away for the Golden Eagles.
The youngster has shown improvement since his arrival on campus, possessing a knack for rebounding and blocking shots.
He also comes from some familiar territory to the Golden Eagle program, hailing from Columbia High School (Ga.).
TTU legend Lorenzo Coleman, Tech's all-time leader in blocked shots also attended Columbia High School. The post also posted the most double-doubles in program history with 40 in four years.
In the season opener at Georgia Tech, Henry scored a team-high 15 points, the most by a Tech freshman since Anthony Fisher score 15 at Ole Miss on Nov. 19, 2004.
Henry's 15-point debut featured a 7-for-10 showing from the field, representing the most field goals made by a Golden Eagle freshman in their debut since Jason Harrell went 7-for-16 at South Carolina on Nov. 17, 2000 and the most without a 3-pointer since Carlos Carter finished 8-for-11 against Clinch Valley College on Dec. 1, 1992.
GIVE ME SOME SUGAR
Junior guard Aleksa Jugovic returns from his award-winning and breakout sophomore campaign in which he jumped from averages of 5.8 points and 2.0 assists per game as a freshman to 12.1 points and 2.9 assists as a junior.
The slick shooter also knocked down 40 more treys while increasing his shooting accuracy from downtown by nearly eight percent.
Fans can follow Jugovic on Twitter under his handle/nickname @SerbianSugar. The moniker, originally developed by Director of Basketball Operations Gus Fraley, was created to help acclimate the Serbia native to the fans of Golden Eagle basketball.
Between his junior and senior years in high school, Jugovic starred for the Serbian U-18 national team, starting at point guard at the 2013 FIBA Europe U-18 Championships. He averaged a team-high 30.2 minutes while recording 8.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game.
Following his monster sophomore season, Jugovic was honored as the recipient of the Male Breakthrough Athlete of the Year at the Tennessee Tech Athletics Department's first annual Golden Wings Awards.
Jugovic also earned a place on this year's Preseason All-OVC Team after ranking in the top-five in 3-point shooting last season. In league play, the junior was red hot, leading the OVC by hitting at a 50 percent clip.
Additionally, Jugovic ranked third in the OVC in free throw shooting in 2016-17, converting on 86.5 percent of his attempts from the charity stripe.
EARNING A SPOT
A walk-on to the Tech roster back during the 2013-14 season, Mason Ramsey has done plenty to earn the respect of his teammates and coaches in his three seasons in the purple and gold.
The local Livingston, Tenn. native was awarded a scholarship by Steve Payne following the 2014-15 season, Ramsey's first year of action on the court in Eblen Center.
After redshirting in 2013-14, Ramsey became the first Tech freshman since 1986-87 to open his career with a double-double, posting 14 points and 14 rebounds.
Coach Payne had great things to say about Ramsey's leadership qualities over the summer.
"Mason is great at leading by example, communicating, helping others, and making others better. He is doing several of the things we need done, especially by an upper classman after losing three seniors."
One of four JUCO transfers on the team, Hakeem Rogers became the first Tech player to hit four 3-pointers in his Golden Eagle debut in over 15 years, scoring 18 points in last season's victory over Piedmont College.
Rogers proved to be one of Tech's most valuable scoring options as a junior, coming off the bench to average 9.9 points and hit at 40.1 percent from 3-point range in just 18.3 minutes per game.
The lone senior on the roster that will exhaust his final season of eligibility this season, Rogers is expected to fill a leadership role both on and off the court while making the transition into a starting role for the Golden Eagles.
Rogers represents Tech's best offensive player in transition, possessing an ability to pull up from three, take it to the hole or distribute it to others, all while maintaining down hill speed.
Courtney Alexander II has one of the best role models in which to model his game after that a freshman collegiate player can have. And he lives in the same house.
His father, Courtney Alexander Sr., was the 13th overall selection by the Orlando Magic in the 2000 NBA Draft.
Courtney Sr. went on to play three seasons in the Association, including stints with Dallas, Washington and New Orleans.
He led the NCAA in scoring, averaging 24.8 points as a senior at Fresno State.
Alexander II changed the hand he shoots with for the second time in his young career. As a prep player, the forward shot primarily with his left hand, making the switch to his right during his senior season. The rookie began the transition back to his left hand last October.
Mack joins Tech with one year of eligibility remaining, but is likely to be granted a sixth year by the NCAA after missing two seasons due to injury while at Tulane.
The combo guard has displayed the kind of skill set that could make him a dominant player in OVC this season, throwing down thunderous dunks, making fantastic reads and passes and playing stout defense in Tech's scrimmages.
The senior is expected to start and play a major role in the team right away.
Phillips Jr. will sit out the first semester of the season after transferring from Campbell last December. The junior sat out the second semester last year and will be eligible to suit up for Tech for its Dec. 10 match-up at Michigan State.
Phillips Jr. possesses a lot of potential as a wing, averaging over eight points and four rebounds per game while at Campbell.
After earning Big South All-Freshman Team honors in 2014-15, the forward made seven starts and played in eight contests for Campbell as a sophomore before mutually agreeing to part ways with the program.
PUTTING IN THE WORK
Junior Markell Henderson didn't see large chunks of minutes in his first season in the purple and gold last year, but that is sure to change in 2016-17.
Henderson is one of the team's best athletes, consistently throwing down rim-rattling dunks and hauling in tough rebounds down in the paint.
Over the summer, Henderson worked hard on improving his 3-point shooting touch and the hard work seems to have paid off. The junior guard is expected to provide another lethal option from beyond the arc for the Golden Eagles this season.
His rebounding abilities will be a huge asset for a team returning less than 40 percent of its rebounding from last season.
Henderson dropped a career-high 30 points on 11-for-15 shooting against Alabama A&M, including a 5-for-8 showing from the 3-point arc.
In his first season of action, sophomore Savonte Frazier made the most of his opportunities, showing flashes of brilliance in limited action at the point guard position in 2015-16.
Now in his third season in Cookeville (he redshirted the 2014-15 season), Coach Payne expects Frazier to develop into one of Tech's floor generals and team leaders.
The point guard is arguably the most vocal player on the Golden Eagle roster and does a great job of inspiring teammates and helping correct problems in the moment.
Frazier has the ability to get into the paint and create shots not just for himself, but everyone around him. He is also a capable 3-point shooter and tenacious defender expected to make strides in 2016-17.
He led Tech with a career-high seven rebounds and career-best six assists while also notching a personal-best 14 points in the team's victory over Alabama A&M.
Four Golden Eagle players can all make the trip to Cookeville from their respective home towns in under two hours.
Junior Mason Ramsey represents the closest to home, just a 20-minute ride from nearby Livingston, Tenn.
A walk-on freshman last season, sophomore Conner Hall lives just down the road, calling Gainesboro home. Hall played in five games last season.
New to the crew, freshman Miles Thomas played his high school ball at South Doyle High School in Chattanooga, Tenn., a two-hour trip from the Eblen Center. Thomas boasts strong athletic ability and has a very high ceiling for his development to reach.
Colton Blevins is another freshman from the area, hailing from Jamestown, Tenn. Blevins is a hard-nosed, physical presence in the paint and is praised by coaches and teammates for his strong work ethic.
IT STARTS WITH A PHILOSOPHY
The Golden Eagle basketball team owns a philosophy that does not change from year-to-year.
Share the ball and play hard.
Be great defensively.
Know how we win. We win with great defense and an inside-out offense.
We win with high basketball IQ and low turnover totals.
This year's class also brings a special kind of chemistry and different energy level than previous teams.
The players approach everything with a willingness to learn and eagerness to get started and better every day.
JOINING THE RANKS
The Golden Eagles made just one addition for the 2017-18 season during the early signing period, but the coaching staff couldn't be more thrilled with the signee.
Joining Tech from Camden Central High School will be combo guard Hunter Vick.
In his three-year career at Camden, the guard has already scored 1,764 points in just 81 games, averaging 21.7 per game. He has also hauled in 430 rebounds, dished out 283 assists and racked up 202 steals.
His junior season totals proved staggering, as he averaged 26.9 points, 8.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 3.0 steals.