Loss of three seniors has TSU’s Maestri looking to junior college recruits early

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 26, 2001

Try to top this. A school-record 19 wins. A berth in the conference championship game, one win away from the NCAATournament. A second place finish in the conference during the regular season. Oh, by the way, the head coach becomes the school’s all-time winningest coach.

That is what faces Troy SLte head coach Don Maestri and his team as they enter the 2001-2002 campaign. Over the past two seasons, the Trojans have won more than 35 games, claiming the regular-season title in 1999-2000.

"Last year we had a lot of success," said Maestri, who has 316 wins in his 19-year career atTroy State. "The players that are returning have a lot of confidence from last year, but you can’t believe that you are going to have success this year because we had success last year. We have to go out there this year and create our success. We lost a lot of key players and we are going to have to get some guys some experience early so that they can contribute at the end of the year."

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The Trojans lose three key members of their starting five that advanced all the way to the Atlantic Sun Championship. Seniors Derrick Davis, Matt Holman and Jacova Jenkins all finished their careers at TSU last season, as each started the last 25 games of the season.

"There is no question that we wouldn’t have had the success we had last season without those three players," said Maestri. "Each made a big contribution in our close games, each one stepping up at a different time and making the difference in the game."

But the bright spot is thatTroy State is returning the two leading scorers from last year, Lemayn Wilson (14.6 ppg) and Robert Rushing (14.5 ppg). Rushing was named second-team all-conference last season, and both players were named to the A-Sun AllTournament team.

"There are a lot of positives in having them back," said Maestri. "They both can really shoot the basketball. All the plays in the world don’t work if they don’t make the shot, and they made a lot of big shots for us -last year. and that is going to help us this year."

The Trojans also have a bumper crop in this year’s recruiting class. Four come from the junior college ranks and look to contribute immediately this season.

"The recruits, you hope, can fill some of that void from losing three senior starters," said Maestri. "They can’t fill the void immediately, but as the season goes along they will hopefully be able to step up and play well. Matt and Jacova were two-year starters and Derrick was a transfer from another D- I program. None of our new guys have any D- I experience. They’ll have to learn how tough it is. But they have scoring credentials and rebounding credentials. Credential-wise, we feel like we signed some good people."