Maestri and basketball team ready for new season

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Sports Editor

Troy State senior forward Lemayn Wilson is ready to go dancing.

As in the "Big Dance", college basketball’s annual 64 team tournament which decides the national championship.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Last year the Trojans were one game shy of making the field, falling to Georgia State 79-55 in the Atlantic Sun Tournament Championship game.

Other then that loss, Troy State and head coach Don Maestri had their best year as a Division 1-A program, going 19-12 overall and finishing a regular season second in the Atlantic Sun to the Panthers.

With a new year comes new hope and a renewed optimism.

"I think there’s a lot of seriousness about this team," said Maestri as he enters his 20th season as head coach of the Trojans. "Last year we came close to getting into the tournament, but came up short. I think this year’s team knows what to look for and is ready."

However, Troy State’s early non-conference schedule is murderous. The Trojans play nine of their first 12 games on the road and just 11 games all season within the friendly confines of Sartain Hall.

"One thing you like to have is hope. This year we have a chance to be good. But I think in those first games our kids will have more knowledge of hotel management then basketball," said Maestri, joking.

The Trojans return two potential all-conference performers in Wilson (6-8, 210) and point guard Robert Rushing (6-1, 170). Wilson led the team in scoring last season (14.6 ppg), with Rushing a close second (14.5 ppg).

However, TSU must replace three starters with the departure of inside player Jacova Jenkins, three-point shooter Matt Holman and defensive workhorse Derrick Davis.

"Derrick was ineligible when the season began, but when he joined the team we just came together," said Wilson.

Preseason magazines have selected the Trojans to finish anywhere from second to sixth in the Atlantic Sun. Georgia State is still favored to win the league.

"Georgia State will be one of the most talented teams this season," said Maestri. "But we’re not intimidated by them. I think, maybe sometime, some of the other teams in this league are."

Last year, the Trojans won the first meeting against the Panthers in Troy, 74-67, but fell in Atlanta 79-75 one week later and again in the league title game.

Rushing is used to Troy State not getting any respect.

"You never see Troy State picked to finish first in the league," he said. "But I don’t think that justifies where we end up in the rankings."

Rushing should know. In ’99, TSU won the TAAC regular season title, despite being tabbed as a preseason sixth.

"We had Detric Golden, who had played point guard for Memphis and started at Memphis, coming in to play for us and they still picked us sixth," said Rushing.

Golden ended up winning TAAC Newcomer and Player of the Year that season.

The former Randolph-Clay High School star remembers some motivational tactics used by Maestri during that season.

"We were all excited because we thought we were getting new practice uniforms and when we put them on everyone had the same number," Rushing said. "We all had No. 6 on our jerseys, because Coach Maestri said that’s where they picked us. When you’re running down the court and all you see is the number six, it makes you want to work harder."

The Trojans open the season on Nov. 16 at Kansas State.