His role has changed more than once.
At one point, he was asked to be the team’s go-to scorer. At times, he’s been asked to provide some rebounds and defense. There have been times when he’s been on the floor for a ton of minutes. Other times, his minutes have been limited.
Through it all, though, Tavin Lovan has consistently provided what’s needed for the UAB men’s basketball team to have success.
“You just think about the team, you think about the goal at the end,” Lovan said. “The goal is always to win a championship. If Coach tells me I’ve got to do this or do that or my role this game is to play defense or my role this game is to get six rebounds, I handle it. Each game is something different, but you always stay true to yourself. I’ve always been myself, even when my role changed. When you get that in your mind, that I have to do this for me and my team, you won’t have a problem changing your role.”
The 6-foot-4, 195-pound Kentucky native came to UAB under the previous staff. In his first two seasons, Lovan started 47 times with a 13.2 points per game average in his second season. When Andy Kennedy took over the program for the 2020-21 season, he asked Lovan to lead the offense and he handled that role well.
Then, with Kennedy having more of an opportunity to fill out his roster, Lovan was asked to do something different. His average dropped below double digits for the first time in three seasons and his minutes dropped.
“He didn’t play as many minutes, he wasn’t an all-league player,” Kennedy said. “But I thought he was tremendous, most especially as we made the run in March.”
Lovan said he was fine with the changing role, turning it into a positive during a season when the Blazers won 27 games, captured the Conference USA Tournament and returned to the NCAA Tournament.
“There are only a select few people in the world that, each year, get to continue their same game,” Lovan said. “But you always got to add to our game, too, at the end of the day. As you’re working, you can still do what you’ve been doing, you’ve just got to incorporate new things. It’s like now you’ve got to get five rebounds and three assists, too. I wasn’t getting any assists or getting any rebounds. I was getting 20 points but not getting anything more. It was like, he gets 20 but he’s getting nothing else. Each year, you want to add to your game.”
This season has been a bit uneven for Lavin, when it comes to individual play. He’s played as many as 25 minutes and as few as 12 minutes in a game. The most shots he’s taken in a game this season is six, hitting five of them, en route to a season-high 13 points.
However, his worth to this team shouldn’t be measured by pure numbers.
The recent win over South Alabama is a good snapshot. South Alabama’s starting backcourt had consistent success backing down UAB starting guards Jelly Walker and Eric Gaines and getting quality looks deep in the paint. Kennedy put Lovan, who is the team’s most physical guard, in the game to stop that trend.
“Hopefully this will give him what he needs to be the Tavin we all know he’s capable of being,” Kennedy said. “We certainly need it. Jelly is a dynamic shotmaker, Eric Gaines just kind of slips and slides. We need Tavin Lovan to be our downhill [guard], we need him to be our fullback. We need to go get three hard [points] in a pile. He’s capable of doing that. I thought tonight, he got downhill one day. I hope he can flourish in that role.”
For Lovan, it’s just a matter of being prepared for handling whatever role he’s asked to fill.
“You got to expect the unexpected,” Lovan said. “You got to be ready. If you’re ready to go get seven rebounds, you need to be ready to go get seven buckets. You got to understand the game, you got to read the game. If my team needs me to get downhill and get a foul, I need to understand that. If my coach calls me off the bench and says, ‘I need you to get a stop on this player,’ there is no ifs, ands or buts, you just got to be ready.”
UAB is headed into an important two games in its non-conference schedule. The Blazers are 7-1 overall but didn’t play well on the big stage in an early season loss to Toledo. On Saturday, the Blazers have another chance at the big stage, visiting West Virginia for a game that tips off at 5 p.m. and will be telecast on ESPN+. Next Wednesday, the Blazers have the opportunity to host an SEC school when South Carolina comes to Bartow Arena.
“These are the ones you have to take advantage of,” Lovan said. “If you want to feel good about yourself and your team and you want to see where your team really is, these are the games are set the message. That’s the reason I like these games. Win, lose or draw, when we come back here after those two games, we’ll really know if we’re ready or know we’ve got to go back to the lab and put more work in.”
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