Big wins last week give Trojans confidence

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 18, 2000

Sports Editor

If you’ve talked to any of the Troy State Trojans recently you might note a hint of confidence in their voices.

That kind of confidence comes when you defeat two of your toughest conference rivals in the same week. The Trojans did just that in downing Trans America Athletic Conference front runners Samford on Thursday, 77-65 and arch-rival Jacksonville State 74-70 on Saturday.

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The two wins improved Troy State’s overall record to a hefty 10-5 and left them 6-0 and alone on top of the TAAC standings as the only team left without a conference loss.

Confidence like that isn’t bought at the store, it can only be earned on the playing floor. Something TSU head coach Don Maestri says his squad has done in spades.

"I think the reason our kids sound confident now is that confidence comes from winning," Maestri said. "There’s no other way to build it. You have to perform well in your games to add to it. How they will handle all this we don’t really know, but they have had past experience with winning programs."

The past experience Maestri speaks of comes from a lot of different places for his players. While all of them came from highly-successful high school programs, many have been a part of championship teams on the junior college and even other Division I-A teams.

"This is a team composed of guys who have all had championship experience," Maestri said. "Hopefully they can rely on their experiences on the championship teams they’ve been on. It’s not like it’s a totally new concept to them."

Players like transfer point guard Detric Golden comes from a talented University of Memphis team that went deep into the NIT last season, Eugene Christopher and Nik Daniels were on the championship team from a very tough junior college league in Florida and junior center Jacova Jenkins helped lead Northwest Community College out of Mississippi to the final four of the junior college national championship where they finished second.

All of these past experiences will help them cope with their new-found success, but simply being the newly targeted "team-to-beat" in the TAAC will take some getting used to.

The thing Maestri wants his squad to remember is that the season isn’t nearly over. There are 12 more games to play and in a league as tough as the TAAC anything can happen.

"What I have to keep reminding them is we’re only six games into an 18-game season," Maestri said. "It’s not like football. If we were in football right now I’d really be feeling good, but we’ve got two more seasons left by those standards."

Maestri has never hidden the fact that he felt this year the TAAC is tougher than it has ever been. The proof in his logic is evident now as the No. 1 team in the league (Troy State) was picked to be sixth in the preseason, the No. 2 team (JSU) was picked eighth and the No. 3 team (Campbell) was picked ninth.

"We’re not going to go undefeated, this league is to tough this year," Maestri said. "I think we have a deeper level of confidence now that we’ve gotten off to such a good start, but we’re still playing teams like Georgia State Thursday night that actually have more talent than us and will be really gunning for us now that we’re No. 1.

"I still have to give our kids credit, they will take last Thursday and Saturday’s games and they’ll feel good about it, but they won’t get to high," he continued. "They never really have all year. If they can continue to handle success, and failure the way they have so far this year, I feel like we have just as good a chance as anyone else in the league."