Troy State roundballers ready for all-important first game in Tournament

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 2, 2000

Sports Editor

A spectacular season is on the line as the Troy State Trojans play their first game of the Trans American Athletic Conference Tournament in Jacksonville tonight.

The Trojans (17-10 overall, 13-5 in TAAC play) have nabbed the No. 1 seed in the tourney, but as every team in the TAAC has found out at some point this year, nothing is certain when playing the quality opponents this league has to offer.

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"That No. 1 seed doesn’t ever mean that you’re going to win a championship, it just gives you an edge," TSU head coach Don Maestri said recently. "We’re going in with a serious mind-set. I think that our young men will have a serious attitude toward the Tournament. They’re not going in there like it’s great to be here or happy just to be here. They know it’s a great challenge for them, they will have to get ready for it and I think they will be ready."

As for the players, depending on who you ask there’s a mixture of excitement and "I told ya so’s," floating around the ranks. Most of them knew there was something special about the team from the first practice, but it’s just now starting to sink in that they have a great shot at the ultimate goal – the NCAA Tournament.

"I still can’t believe that we’ve won the conference and for us now to go into the conference tournament the No.1 seed I don’t think that’s hit me yet," senior Eugene Christopher said. "I’m really excited about going down there and I feel like this team has a real good chance of winning it."

"A lot of people doubted us, a lot of people at this school even doubted us, but for me it’s been sunk in," sophomore Robert Rushing said. "We always believed in each other and knew what we had. If we work together and play together with everyone playing their role we’ll always come out on top."

Maestri knows what’s at stake and will have his players ready, but he says that that first game worries him more than any other.

"Both of those schools beat us the last time we faced them," Maestri said of Mercer and Jacksonville who fought tonight for the right to face the Trojans. "We will be playing someone who definitely feels like they can beat us.

"It’s a virtual impossibility for the guys who play that first night to play four nights in a row and win," he added. "But in the second round they are warmed up in that Arena and you’re just cranking up cold. You’re going in there very cautious. We’ll have to be mentally and physically ready to play. I really think that opening game is going to be a mighty tough game."

Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. with all the action being heard on WAOQ-FM 100.3.

TROJAN NOTES: Don Maestri (Southern Miss ’69) is in his 18th season at the helm of the Trojans.  In his only collegiate head coaching position, Maestri has fashioned a record of 297-209. Maestri needs just three wins to reach 300 for his career…Golden has already set a new TSU Division I record for assists in a season with 164.  He is just 34 points shy of Cameron Boozer’s record of 502…The Trojans are shooting 40.9 percent (246-601) from three-point range making 9.1 per game…There will be a gathering for TSU alumni and fans at 4:30 p.m. at the West Stadium Club in ALLTELL Stadium adjacent to the coliseum before Thursday night’s opening contest.