The 6-foot-5, 195-pound Covington, a 2013 graduate of Edwardsville High, again is the Leathernecks’ best player and one of the top performers in the Summit League.
Entering Western’s game against Oral Roberts on Wednesday in Tulsa, Okla., Covington’s 18.3 points per game and 60 3-pointers lead the Leathernecks (7-15, 4-7).
It’s the fourth consecutive year Covington has led the Leathernecks in scoring and 3-point shooting. He averaged 17.9 points with 77 3-pointers as a junior, 15.5 points with 63 3-pointers as a sophomore and 14.6 points with 70 3-pointers as a freshman.
“It’s gone way better than I could imagine,” Covington said of a career in which he’s scored 1,741 points to rank third all-time at Western and first in the Leathernecks’ 36 seasons in Division I. “I wish we had a few more wins to go with it, but personally, there’s nothing more I could ever want. I’ve just played my game and it’s worked out.”
Covington’s 270 career 3-pointers rank first at Western. He has made 373 free throws in the last three-plus seasons and has hit 92 of 104 this year (86 percent).
It’s awesome to be able to rely on things you did four or five years ago and have them still work today.
Garret Covington on what he learned playing for Edwardsville coach Mike Waldo
“The numbers really just reflect how much work I’ve put into the game,” Covington said. “Every year, I just try to get better than I was last year. I feel like that tells the story.”
Covington, a second-team all-Summit League selection in each of his first three seasons, has scored 34 points against Oral Roberts, 30 against Chicago State and 29 against Miami.
At Edwardsville, Covington scored 1,348 points and made 207 3-pointers, averaging 18.3 points as a senior. He passed the 1,000-point mark midway through his junior season at Western.
“I’m not going to lie: I never put that into my head,” Covington said of the accomplishment. “The only goal I had coming into college was going to the NCAA (Tournament) and getting a ring. As of right now, I’m still working (toward that).”
Covington’s team-first approach is what has impressed Leathernecks coach Billy Wright, who has moved Covington to point guard after injuries to his top two points, Jabari Sandifer (ACL) and Delo Bruster (strained hamstring).
“He’s had to learn an entire offensive package from the point-guard position,” Wright said. “He’s playing more on the ball as opposed to off the ball. He’s done a terrific job of learning the system from the point-guard position, which has kind of taken away from his scoring. But he’s done a good job distributing the ball and getting other people involved.”
Covington was well-schooled in basketball when he arrived at Western in 2013. He played for coach Mike Waldo at Edwardsville, where three-hour practices were common.
More than anything, Covington remembers learning the “mental aspect of the game” under Waldo, who is shooting for career win No. 700 on Tuesday against DeSmet.
“Being ready for any circumstance and being calm,” is what Covington remembers about Waldo’s disciplined approach. “We did a lot of practice and preparation in high school, so when we get into big moments and pressure situations, you’re the kind of that guy (teammates) can look for to bring peace.
“So, because of practice, you know what you’ve done and you’re ready (for anything) when the time comes. We went over pretty much every aspect of the game. It’s awesome to be able to rely on things you did four or five years ago and have them still work today.”
I’m not perfect in any kind of way, but I go into every game and try to do my best that game.
Wright was an assistant coach in Covington’s first season before taking over for Jim Molinari. Wright said Covington has been a leader since his freshman season.
“Coach Waldo and his staff do a great job instilling the discipline and the work ethic,” Wright said. “When you have a kid who brings that to the table, it’s great for the program to have because others see that type of commitment and dedication to the game.”
Covington said Waldo and Wright are far different coaches, but he has enjoyed playing for both.
“Coach Wright has influenced my game – just to stay after it, stay hungry, keep grinding (and) always know there’s somebody out there working (hard),” Covington said. “He tries to get under your skin just to see how you react. A lot of guys can’t handle that, but I like it. In the real world, there’s going to be bosses like that; there’s going to be people like that.”
Given his size, Covington is capable of posting up smaller guards. He much prefers, however, to move around in search of a 3-point shot opportunity, which is what he did at Edwardsville.
“A lot of guys like to try to take away my jump shot, which gets my teammates open more and also makes me work on my handles off ball screens,” Covington said. “In high school, we ran the Princeton offense, so there weren’t many ball screens. I never came off ball screens until I came to college. That’s made me open up my game.”
Wright said Covington can score from anywhere in about any circumstance. And with a lean, muscular frame, Covington doesn’t mind contact on dribble-drives.
He’s made some tough shots over his career coming off screens as well as with the ball in his hands coming off a ball screen.
Coach Billy Wright
“He’s efficient at scoring off the catch and scoring off the bounce,” Wright said. “He’s made some tough shots over his career coming off screens as well as with the ball in his hands coming off a ball screen.
“Defensively, he’s a guy that can guard multiple positions. This year, I’ve used him a little bit more to double-team the post, which allows him to play off his man a little bit more. Over the course of his career, he’s been very solid at the defensive end.”
“The wins haven’t been there, but there’s still a lot of season left,” Covington said. “Our locker room (is upbeat). We work as hard as anybody, if not harder. We would love to see the fruits of our labor, and we will. We want to be playing our best basketball about now. In this league, anybody can beat anybody any day. We’re going to stay after it and keep working.”
Covington, the son of Mart and Arlene Covington, of Glen Carbon, acknowledges pride in his consistency.
I wish we had a few more wins to go with it, but personally, there’s nothing more I could ever want. I’ve just played my game and it’s worked out.
“Most guys you see have one good year and possibly a second good year. Then after that, they fall off,” Garret Covington said. “My family instilled in me to stay consistent, be positive, be yourself. A lot of guys kind of lose their way when they get to college. I try not to get too high or too low, which is basically being consistent and staying on your path.
“That’s all I’ve been doing. I’m not perfect in any kind of way, but I go into every game and try to do my best that game.”
Life after basketball
Garret Covington hopes to continue playing after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement. If there is no playing opportunity, Covington said he plans on returning to school, not necessarily Western, to complete a master’s degree in education.
“I’m going to try to play as long as I can,” Covington said. “If I get lucky enough to play overseas or even more lucky to stay in the states and play, I’m definitely going to take that opportunity. After all that, I’m going to go back and get my master’s degree.
“I want to become an athletic director. I wouldn’t mind doing something in my field, like be a detective, but I’m going to go for my master’s and try to become an AD.”