Trojans look for depth from bench

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 26, 2009

Last season, the Troy Trojan basketball team went on a late surge to finish 19-13 overall and 14-4 in Sun Belt play.

The Trojans were helped by key contributions off the bench from now-departed seniors Kenny Ware, Josh Williams and Mario Telfair.

However, as the Trojans prepare to begin the 2009-10 season, those three players have all graduated, and a new crop of Trojans will look to fill the void left by their departure.

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“I don’t think anybody can replace those guys,” said senior guard Brandon Hazzard. “But, I feel like our new guys and going to contribute in their own ways. I think everything’s going to work out perfectly.”

The triumvirate of Williams, Telfair and Ware combined to average 16 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.8 steals per game last season, leaving a void that must be filled by this season’s bench players.

Junior college transfer swingman Levan Patsatsia will be one of the players that will be counted upon heavily to produce off the bench.

“Levan is a European player, and plays just like it,” said head coach Don Maestri. “He has a high basketball IQ. He knows when to shoot and when to pass. He uses his left and right hands well.”

Vernon Taylor, a junior college transfer guard, will also play a big role off the bench and has impressed thus far with his speed in practice.

“V.T. (Taylor) is the fastest guy on the team,” Maestri said. “We call him ‘Barbosa’ because of the guy that plays for the Phoenix Suns. The kid is so fast he’s got a chance to be the fastest player in the Sun Belt.”

Taylor has also impressed his teammates with his energetic play and hustle.

“I think Vernon Taylor will come off the bench and bring a lot of energy,” said senior point guard Michael Vogler. “He’s a high energy guy that never takes a play off. Levan Patsatsia will help us too.”

The versatility of both Taylor and Patsatsia is something Maestri said will be an asset.

“Levan and VT will both play a swing role,” Maestri said. “Levan can play Richard Delk’s and Antywan Jones’ spot, and VT can really play Delk and Hazzard’s spot.”

While the Trojans may be adding depth in the form of Taylor and Patsatsia, they will also be without two of last year’s role players.

Seniors Travis Lee and Regis Huddleston both elected to redshirt this season, meaning they will both be eligible to play an additional season in 2010-11.

Being without Lee and Huddleston will hurt the Trojans’ depth somewhat, in that it will leave Troy with fewer than 10 players expected to play.

“We’re redshirting Huddleston and Lee, so right off the bat, we’re only going to have nine players that will play,” Maestri said.

Both Huddleston and Lee developed a reputation as three-point specialists last season. Huddleston averaged 6.3 points per game and shot 32.7 percent from 3-point range, while Lee averaged 5.4 points per game and shot 39.4 percent from 3-point land.

Despite their contributions last season, Lee and Huddleston would not have played nearly as many minutes this season as they will in 2010-11.

“With Hazzard coming back, their minutes may not be as high as they were last year,” Maestri said. “If Hazzard is healthy, then he’s going to play a lot of minutes. We agreed that it would not be a good year for them to get a lot of minutes.”

Despite the depth issues, Maestri has confidence in this year’s group of new players.

“These guys this year are very athletic and they do some things better than the group from last year,” Maestri said. “The real question is just whether or not they can bring the same kind of energy. They will all play a bunch of minutes.”

One thing the Trojans must develop is chemistry with the new players, something that will affect Vogler more than any other returning starter.

“Just playing with them helps,” Vogler said. “Every day in practice, we’ll develop better chemistry. They’ll learn to be in the right spots, and I’ll learn where they’re going to be pretty much at all times. That just comes from playing together.”

Hazzard, however, has already seen the signs of good chemistry early on in practice.

“The chemistry is so good right now,” Hazzard said. “We’ve got all the pieces in place, and everybody just seems to be clicking. I think it’s going to be a great year, and I’m really looking forward to it.”