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Troy basketball prepares for opener

With its win over the University of West Alabama Monday night at Sartain Hall, the Troy Trojans basketball program concluded exhibition play.

Now, it’s time for the games that really matter.

But the team on the court will look a little different from the one Troy fans became accustomed to seeing last Fall.

The only players returning this season who have had sometime playing in Troy’s program are Vernon Taylor, Levan Patsatsia and Bernard Tombs.

“The three seniors that we have returning for us this season are going to be the main contributors for this team,” head coach Don Maestri said, who is beginning his 29th season with the school.

“They have all looked pretty good so far in both of the exhibition games we have played and we are going to need them to continue to play well. We have a very young team, they are going to have to be the leaders of this team and so far, they have stepped up and taken that role.

But even outside of those three players, the coach said he was starting to see some other players emerge for the Trojans.

“But we have also had some of our younger guys step up to,” Maestri said. “Mo Weathers has played pretty well, given us some good guard play and Regis Huddleston has also shown that he has good 3-point range.”

Along with the team’s youth, injuries have also played a role in the early part of Troy’s season so far.

Travis Lee, who was a transfer from Northeast Mississippi Community College and projected starter for the Trojans this season is out at least two more weeks and Flynn Clayman, another projected contributor for the team is out at least three to four weeks.

“Those are two major injuries that we are facing right now,” Maestri said.

“Those were two guys that had some playing time experience that can and will help us out when they get back.”

Those two scenarios, the lack of experience and injuries, have enabled the Trojans to find out just who will be able to fill in the shoes of former Trojans Brandon Hazzard and Mike Vogler as the go-to guys for the upcoming season.

“We don’t know who will have which roles,” Maestri said.

“It’s so early to tell. It’s going to take us a while to really find out who can make big shots, find out who can make a big steal, who can make free throws at the end of the game. All questions that last year’s team you didn’t have to worry about. These are questions that are going to take a while to answer.

“That kind of thing is something you can’t replicate in practice and that is what our pre-conference schedule is for. Hopefully, by the time the conference schedule begins, we will have those types of things sorted out,” the coach added.

The aforementioned pre-conference schedule is not going to make things easier for the Trojans however. Troy will have 11 out of conference Division 1 games this season, nine of which are on the road.

During that stretch, the Trojans will take on three SEC schools in Alabama, Mississippi State and Arkansas, as well as Utah State, who has received multiple votes for the Associated Press Top 25 poll.

The home games will not be easy either, as Troy will play host to both Belmont, who is the projected winner of the Atlantic Sun Conference and UAB, who is another perennial Top 40 team.

“Our schedule is a tough one for a young team like ours,” Maestri said.

“We tried to get more home games, but we were unable to get them. We are going to focus on each game one at a time and prepare for them the same way we always have.

“With this schedule, hopefully, we don’t lose a lot of confidence. The main thing we can do is continue to work to get better in every aspect of the game. We have to get the kids to do exactly what we need them to do. There is very little room for error right now with this team and the schedule, we have to execute. Hopefully, we will be able to get out of it OK and be ready to go when conference play rolls around.”