Troy State gets ready for talented Panther team in conference battle tonight
Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 20, 2000
As most any good coach will tell you, there’s no rest for the weary when you’re fighting for a conference championship, especially when you hold that No. 1 spot.
Just ask the Troy State Trojans who are fresh off two key wins over Trans America Athletic Conference foes Samford and Jacksonville State at home. After the dust had settled from the whirlwind weekend TSU was in first place in the TAAC standings with a 6-0 conference record, but woke up with every team in the league lining up their crosshairs on anything wearing cardinal and white.
Thursday will be no different, with yet another talented group of TAAC players coming to town in Georgia State looking to be the first to notch a win over the Trojans.
While the Panthers (5-9, 3-3) have had their problems to start the season TSU head coach Don Maestri issues a warning to all listening that this will be the most talented group to visit Trojan Arena this year.
"A lot of people might think that I’m blowing smoke, but in my mind they are the most talented team that we’ve played this year," Maestri said. "These aren’t you’re ordinary TAAC players on this team. You have a kid who was the leading scorer at Georgetown (Shernard Long), a starter at Alabama (Anton Reese) and one from Georgia Tech (Kevin Morris). Those are three on the team that the NBA scouts are looking at and there are some European pro teams that are interested in some of the others."
The Panthers’ most dangerous weapon Thursday will be their 6-foot-5 wing man Long who is averaging a league-best 22 points per game.
Long has only been academically eligible for eight games, but in those games they’ve started to turn into what many felt they would be at the beginning of the season.
"I think a lot of it is that the Long kid didn’t get eligible until December," Maestri said of the team’s deceiving record. "They’ve just now started to come into their own because they haven’t been together that long. They’re just now starting to gel now."
Long will be joined by their two guards in Morris and Reese who are averaging 12.7 and 13.9 a game respectively. That gives the Panthers a three-way tandem that is hard to matchup against.
Even with the 6-0 conference start, Maestri and his Trojans know it’s important not to get overconfident. That No. 1 spot the Trojans found themselves marked with so suddenly last weekend can be ripped out from under you just as fast. Especially by a team Maestri feels will help decide the conference champion this year.
"They’re going to be motivated coming in here," Maestri said. "Anytime someone is in our position everybody is going to have fire in their eyes when they play us.
"Most of the teams in our league have deceptive records because of their pre-conference schedules," he continued. "The thing about about Georgia State, even though we’re on top right now, we’re the ones that are upset minded. They were picked second in the league in preseason, and if we’re lucky enough to have a good game against them it would be an upset for us. If they aren’t the TAAC champions when all is said and done they will definitely have a hand in deciding who is."