February 4, 2009
by Pete Spiewak '10
Ask Darrin Govens how much he would like to win the Atlantic 10 Conference Championship, and it will take a couple of moments for him to formulate a response.
"Oh, man," he said with a sigh. "I want it bad."
Govens and the Hawks have gotten off to a hot start to conference play, going 5-1 in the Atlantic 10 so far and having Saint Joseph's fans hoping for another trip to the championship game in Atlantic City, N.J., this year after falling short to Fran Dunphy's Temple squad in the finals a year ago. A trip to the championship game this season would be the Hawks' fourth in five seasons.
Govens is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve that goal, and recently a three-point slump has forced him to make adjustments.
In the midst of their seven-game winning streak earlier this season, Govens had a stretch of five games where he dished out five or six assists every contest -- well above his season average of 3.1.
"I'm not limited to just shooting," the junior said. "I know I can get my teammates involved. I just started to the push the ball a little bit more, create a little more."
Govens has made a point to draw more fouls this season. He has already reached the foul line more times this season than all of last year. During his sophomore year, he shot a solid 71% from the free throw line, but only took 46 foul shots. This year, he has improved; shooting 78% from the foul line, and after 20 games, Govens has already taken 51 free throws.
But Govens isn't satisfied.
"I think I can get to the foul line a little bit more," the Chester, Pa. native said. "I just have to pick and choose the right times to get in there and get some contact and the foul."
When head coach Phil Martelli expressed his concern about the inconsistency of Govens' shooting, the 6'1" guard couldn't agree more with his coach.
"He's absolutely right," Govens admits. "It's a big concern. I've been up and down."
Govens has worked hard on his all-around game, but anybody who has seen him play knows that shooting is his bread and butter -- and he vows to make improvements.
"My shooting numbers are way off," said the guard who is shooting 36% from three-point range. "I definitely want to get that over 40%. A little over 40% and we'll be fine."
Govens tips his cap to his teammates that have picked up the slack from beyond the arc.
"Tasheed [Carr] has been knocking them down," he said. "And we have a couple of guys off of the bench who have, too."
Irwin nailed three three-pointers in front of a jam-packed Palestra to help the Hawks recover from a slow start against Penn.
Prescott's season-high nine points were needed to steal an overtime win from Duquesne.
"I'm not surprised by [Irwin's and Prescott's emergence]," Govens said. "They do very well in practice, especially for freshmen. It's a matter of them just doing it [in games], and getting their confidence is a big key."
When the Chester native looks at Prescott, he sees a little bit of a young Darrin Govens in him. So Govens makes sure to impart his knowledge on the youngster whenever he can.
"I give him advice," Govens said. "I let him know the things I did wrong, or could have done better -- so if he does turn out to be like me, he turns out to be a better me."
For the Hawks, the New Year has brought new life to the team. The Hawks went undefeated in January, and have improved their overall record from 5-7 to 12-8. Govens hopes to continue to build off of the success.
"I just hope we finish out the way we started ," Govens said. "But right now I'm just taking it one game at a time."
The junior, who graduated from basketball powerhouse Chester High School, loves to compete. Whether it is in a game against an Atlantic 10 foe or in a post-practice footrace with a teammate, he hates to lose.
"I love to win at all competitions that I'm in," he said. "It feels weird to lose."
And with this group of Hawks, there is always some competition going on.
"Anything thing you can think of, we compete in it," Govens said. "We see who's the strongest, who can bench press the most. We race to see who's the fastest, and see who has the best hair."
And who does have the best hair?
"Of course, it's me!" bragged the not-so-shy guard.
The Hawks are looking to solidify themselves as a top-tier Atlantic 10 team, and finish as one of the top four teams in the conference, earning a bye in the first round of the conference tournament.
"If we can do that, it will be a big plus," Govens said. "We can get some extra rest, and it will be one less game to reach our goal. But that isn't something [my teammates and I] talk about yet."
As a junior, Govens has taken more of a leadership role. Moments before the Hawks' season opener against Rider, the junior could not contain his excitement. After player introductions, it was Govens who stepped in the middle of the pre-game huddle to pump his teammates up, not Carr, who had the honor last season.
"At the first game, I was so excited that I was playing," Govens said. "I went through a tough injury in the offseason, and I was just happy to be there. I only practiced for about two weeks in the preseason. And with limited practice, to know that the coaches had enough confidence to start me got me so emotional and so excited for the game. I was just like `watch out, I got it.'"
The competitor inside of Govens is what keeps him in the gym when everybody else has gone home. It's what makes him want to be the guy who takes the big shot.
The junior will tell you that he won't back down from any challenge, but that he also takes every opponent seriously.
The tattoo across his chest serves as a reminder.
"Respect All, Fear None," it reads.
"It means you always have to respect your opponent, always respect the game, and respect the opportunity," Govens said. "And no matter who is in your way, don't let anybody stop you."
If the rest of the Hawks adopt Govens' mentality, they might just get another shot to bring an Atlantic 10 Championship to Hawk Hill.
And that is all Govens wants.
"I would love to have that championship," he said. "Especially after last year, I can't afford to have that bitter taste in my mouth again."