Durham brings Dolphins
into Trojan Arena tonight
By STEVEN G. WATSON
Troy State head coach Don Maestri has a tough challenge tonight when his Trojans face off against the Dolphins of Jacksonville University.
His name is Hugh Durham and he’s won 528 games in 29 years as a head coach, taken two different teams to the final four, won the SEC Championship and that’s just a drop in the bucket when it comes to his wrap sheet.
Is Maestri intimidated at all? Nope. He believes he could shoot the veteran floor general’s socks off.
"I think I could beat him one-on-one," Maestri said Monday laughing. "I know he’s still in pretty good shape from the hand-ball, but I’ve been jogging a little bit early in the morning so I think I would have a shot at beating him. He doesn’t intimidate me.
"All kidding aside, the great thing about basketball is for the most part players win games," he continued. "Hugh is an excellent coach. What I like about Hugh is that he does a lot for the game of basketball besides for his own team. He’s a great ambassador on and off the court."
Maestri feels Durham is a huge reason the Trans American Athletic Conference has been on the rise as of late. He and some of the other very talented coaches have risen the bar in the TAAC. Fans of the league can look forward to some very heated conference game this year, many of which will be played on the Trojans’ home floor.
The coach feels the early contest with the Dolphins should wet the community’s appetite for great things to come.
"What we’re trying to do is set the tone with a good crowd for the excitement in the league this year, but not necessarily just for this one game," Maestri said. "What I want them to see is a team like Jacksonville which is very good and expose people to TAAC basketball this year. To show them how entertaining and how exciting it’s going to be."
Being the first conference game of the season both teams should be up and ready for the matchup tonight. There won’t be any secrets when Durham unleashes his Dolphins. Just as many of his teams in the past they will be well coached and fight hard during every possession.
"This will be a real barn-burner of a game Wednesday night," Maestri said. "It will be a great matchup and an intensely played game by both teams. They play very aggressive on defense which is typical of Hugh Durham teams. They put in a tremendous amount of effort on defense.
"We want to have a great crowd so they can experience what kind of basketball will be played in the league this year," he added. "Once they see what type of ball is being played and how entertaining the game is, then they can expect that from the other teams that come into town. They’re really in for an entertaining season. The conference this year is the best they’ve ever been and the games that are going to be played in this arena are going to be worth coming out to watch."
Jacksonville University is off to a 1-2 start in the early going with an 88-84 win over Coastal Carolina, a 93-85 loss to Georgia Southern and a 83-59 loss to Florida State last Saturday.
Troy State has picked up two early wins, but lost in a close one to Florida A&M. there most recent victory over Northwestern State, a 93-79 affair, might have the Trojans playing with a lot of confidence.
"We played very well Saturday night against Northwestern State," Maestri said. "I think it helps us by giving us a little more confidence going into the game. We knew whether we won or lost Saturday that this game Wednesday was going to be a battle. We probably needed a little shot of confidence so that game did help us in that area."
Maestri knows that this early in the season no team has really hit their stride yet, but he has high hopes about the outcome of tonight’s game. However, more important than a win almost, the coach hopes that this kind of game will sell a few people on the brand of basketball TSU and the TAAC will be playing throughout the season.
"I think this particular game should help sell basketball to our town, to our students and to our alumni," Maestri said. "The quality of basketball is better, the recruiting is better and the calibre of athletes are better. It makes it harder for you to win, but at the same time it makes better basketball viewing for the people that come to the game. They can come in and see quality division I basketball. That to me is the real plus to having guys like Durham in the league."