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Team preview: Austin Peay

For the most comprehensive previews available on all 335 Division I teams, order the "Bible" of college basketball, the 2011-12 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, at www.blueribbonyearbookonline.com or call 1-877-807-4857.

COACH AND PROGRAM

Dave Loos, dean of coaches in the OVC, has a scary prediction for the rest of the league this season.

Lots of people think the Govs have a loaded roster. Loos would agree.

"I think that's accurate," he said. "I think we've got a very good basketball team this year, and it all depends on how it all washes out and how they come together, but there's potential for one of our better teams I think, actually."

And that's saying something.

Loos has had some big seasons at Austin Peay -- especially since the turn of the century. His 2002-03 team won the OVC co-championship in the regular season and then won the league tournament. The next year, the Govs went 16-0 in the regular season. In 2006-07, Austin Peay won a regular-season title by three games and the next season repeated as regular-season champion while also winning the OVC Tournament for an NCAA berth.

PLAYERS

With the return of four starters and nine lettermen, playing time will be at a premium, which might seem a problem. Not so, Loos says.

Austin Peay Governors

"I think that's one of the things that's going to make us even better," Loos said. "I think our practices are going to be really competitive and I think anytime there's competition, you're going to get better, so while minutes available could become an issue, I think the competition in practices is going to help us improve."

Austin Peay's biggest loss from the 2010-11 lineup was point guard Caleb Brown (8.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 4.7 apg). Brown started all 34 games and averaged 31.2 minutes as a senior last season and was a part-time starter as a junior.

Loos believes he's found the right replacement in 6-1 junior Jerome Clyburn, who signed with Southern Miss out of Orange Park (Fla.) High School. His career at Southern Miss was derailed early when he sustained a broken bone in his left foot in preseason of his freshman year, missed the first nine games, played in three games, and broke a bone in his other foot. In 2009-10, Clyburn played in only four games for Southern Miss and opted to transfer to Santa Fe (Fla.) Community College last season.

Clyburn flourished at Santa Fe, averaging 13.0 points and 4.2 assists.

"I think anytime you recruit a junior college player, at least in our system, you would anticipate and expect them to come in and play significantly, and that's certainly the expectation with Clyburn," Loos said. "I think he's a good fit with our program.

"We need a distributor, a guy who can run our team, a guy that understands how to play, and we think Clyburn is a guy that can do that," Loos said.

When Clyburn needs a rest, Loos can turn to 6-3 senior guard TyShwan Edmondson, who was chosen to the All-OVC Newcomer team last season after coming to the Govs from Midland (Texas) College.

Edmondson (17.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg), selected to the All-OVC first team, was second in the league in scoring, second in three-pointers (33-of-72, or 2.2 per game), and tied for fourth in steals (1.8 spg). He shot .369 from three-point range.

Edmondson plays more of a wing position but can play all three backcourt spots.

"He's obviously a good scorer," Loos said. "For much of the season he led our league in scoring and finished second in scoring in the league. He can score from three, he can put it on the floor and get to the rim, so he's a guy that has a number of ways that he can score."

Loos signed 6-1 point guard Herdie Lawrence out of Atlanta's Collins High School. Lawrence averaged 15.8 points and 4.8 assists last season.

"Herdie Lawrence is a very talented guy that is a candidate for some time there [at point guard], too," Loos said.

Austin Peay has a long-range shooting specialist in 6-3 junior guard Justin Blake (5.1 ppg, 0.9 rpg), who was 46-of-127 (.362) from three-point range while averaging only 13.4 minutes in 34 games. He wasn't in the OVC's three-point rankings because he didn't meet the minutes played requirement.

"I think all teams have an X factor, a guy that can really make a difference in a game, and I think [Blake] has that ability," Loos said. "He has a terrific stroke from three and the ability to really turn the game around."

Thomas Greer, a 6-5 freshman, was redshirted last season. He averaged 26.0 points, 8.3 points, and 5.4 assists two seasons ago at West Carroll (Tenn.) High School.

Also returning to the backcourt is 6-3 sophomore Alton Williams (3.3 ppg, 0.8 rpg), who played in nine games and averaged 5.6 minutes. Kevin Covington, a 6-1 redshirt freshman guard, will add depth in the backcourt.

Josh Terry, a 6-5 senior guard, started 27 games last season, his first in Division I ball after spending two seasons at Three Rivers (Ill.) Community College. Terry (11.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg), the team's second-leading scorer, was selected Austin Peay's Male Outstanding Athlete for the 2010-11 school year.

"Josh Terry is a guy that plays on both ends very, very well," Loos said. "He's a terrific defender, gets his hands on more balls than anybody on our team. He's a good defender, a very tough competitor, he's got some size to him, and he's a guy that probably understands his limitations as well as anybody on our team. And yet he can really find ways to score: he's a good mid-range jump shooter, and once again, he has a great deal of savvy, he knows how to cut and how to get himself open. He's really an effective, efficient basketball player."

Austin Peay will get a big boost with the return of 6-7, 205-pound forward Anthony Campbell, a second-team All-OVC player in 2009-10 when he averaged 15.5 points and 5.3 rebounds.

Campbell suffered a season-ending knee injury during practice in late November -- and barely got a redshirt year. He can play either forward spot.

"He's done remarkably well with his rehab and of course you never know until you put them out there in live situations, but we're sure encouraged by what we've seen to this point with his recovery," Loos said.

His return makes for some healthy competition at power forward, where 6-6 sophomore Will Triggs (6.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg) started the last nine games of the season.

"[Triggs] probably plays harder than anybody on our team with the exception of Josh Terry," Loos said. "He's just an intense competitor that goes after every ball. He's kind of a bull in there, got a little Drake Reed [former Gov] in him in terms of the way he plays around the basket. He just really is a horse. He was playing so well that we had to put him in the lineup, and once he got in there he never really lost his spot."

Triggs moved into the starting spot in place of 6-7, 215-pound Melvin Baker (7.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg), who started 23 games and averaged 19.3 minutes.

"He's a long, rangy guy that is very aggressive, nothing bashful about him," Loos said of Triggs "He has some length to him, and he gets his hands on some balls around the basket. He started out great last year, tapered off a little in the midseason, but really has the ability to be a potential starter."

The Govs also added two forwards to this year's roster -- 6-7, 215-pound redshirt freshman Joe Harms and 6-6, 205-pound freshman Chris Freeman.

Freeman averaged 21 points and 12 rebounds last season at Muhlenberg (Ky.) High School. "He's got a lot of bounce, a lot of athleticism," Loos said. "I see him developing into a [small forward] before he's finished with his career, but right now he's a good inside presence because he's so athletic."

Harms averaged 8.3 points and shot 73 percent from the floor two years ago for Althoff High School in Belleville, Ill.

Returning as the starter at low post is 6-8, 220-pound senior John Fraley (9.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg), who was fourth in the OVC in rebounding.

"Fraley's come a long way," Loos said. "I'm hopeful that he has the kind of year we think he can have, because he's developed a little game at low post, he's a good shot blocker (55 last season) and rebounder."

Matt Hasse, a 6-9, 225-pound sophomore, will be Fraley's backup. Hasse (1.4 ppg, 1.6 rpg) played in 12 games last season.

BLUE RIBBON ANALYSIS

BACKCOURT: A

BENCH/DEPTH: A

FRONTCOURT: B+

INTANGIBLES: A

Look for the Govs to be in the hunt for another OVC title.

JUCO point guard Clyburn should easily be able to handle the only vacant starting job left by Brown, and Loos has a first-team All-OVC guard returning in Edmondson.

Terry and Triggs also return to the starting lineup and will be pushed by Campbell, who's healthy after being sidelined with a knee injury. Fraley is back as the starting center.

"We think we're going to have a good basketball team and one that can contend," Loos said.

No doubt about it.

For the most comprehensive previews available on all 335 Division I teams, order the "Bible" of college basketball, the 2011-12 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, at www.blueribbonyearbookonline.com or call 1-877-807-4857.