A three-and-a-half month hiatus from live-televised sports has left NBA fans craving a continuation of the paused season. The long-awaited return-to-play is set to begin July 30 in Orlando in a COVID-19-created invention called the "NBA Bubble." Twenty-two teams will play eight seeding games to determine playoff standings, with playoffs set to begin Aug. 17.
One face will look a little familiar to Tennessee State fans, as the Houston Rockets take the court for the first time since March 10 next Friday, July. 31 at 8 p.m. against the Mavericks.
The 6-7 power forward dressed out in No. 33 is former Tiger Robert Covington.
Covington joined the Tennessee State men's basketball team as a freshman in 2009 after graduating from Proviso West High School in Hillside, Illinois, where he averaged 18.1 ppg, 11 rebounds, and seven blocks during his senior year, was named the West Suburban Conference Player of the Year, named to the Chicago Classic All-Star North Team, was an All-Area selection for the Chicago Sun-Times Newspaper, led Proviso West to the West Suburban Championship and was named to the All-Area/All Conference First Team.
The accolades didn't stop after his high school career, as Covington went on to become an All-American, CollegeInsider.com OVC Co-MVP, and helped the Tigers to four OVC Tournament appearances and two CIT berths. In his final season, Covington started 22 games for the Tigers, missing 10 due to a knee injury. He still made the Second-Team All OVC Team after averaging 17 points and 7.9 rebounds per contest. Covington was also second on the squad with 16 steals. He left TSU as the seventh leading scorer (1,749 career points) and rebounder (876) in school history.
In 2013, Covington signed a partially guaranteed contract with the Houston Rockets of the National Basketball Association.
“[I] may not have been drafted, but [I’ve been] given a different route to pursue my dreams,” Covington said. “I’m blessed for this opportunity. God still works even in different ways.”
He went on to play for the Rio Grande Vipers of the G-League (formerly D-League) before joining the Houston Rockets for seven games in 2013-14. During the 2014 season with the Vipers, Covington was named Rookie of the Year, All-NBA G-League First Team, All-Star and All-Star Game MVP. The rest was history as he went on to play seven games for the Rockets that season and his NBA dreams were realized.
Covington is now in his seventh season with the NBA and has spent time with the Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers and the Minnesota Timberwolves. He was named NBA All-Defensive First Team in 2018.
Before the season was postponed, Covington averaged 12.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game.
Tune in to watch Covington and the Rockets Friday, July 31 at 8 p.m. CT on ESPN.