Holohan: Person has star potential

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, November 19, 2014

By Sean Holohan

On the surface, yes, it’s a loss.

And at the end of the season, teams make it to the tournament in March based on their wins and losses, not their potential they display throughout the season.

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But in Troy basketball’s loss to SEC opponent Ole Miss Monday night, there was much more to be learned than the 74-64 final score indicated.

You’d never know the Trojans (1-1) lost Monday night when head coach Phil Cunningham took to the microphone. Cunningham was ecstatic about the fight and effort his team showed against the Rebels (1-1) and knew his team was on the right path despite the tough loss.

“The first thing we told our team when we walked into the locker room is ‘you guys don’t worry, we’re going to be fine,’” Cunningham said after the game Monday night. “’You (the team) showed tonight with your effort and your toughness that we’re going to be fine.’”

And certainly, judging from a gleaming individual performance Monday night, the Trojans will definitely be fine this season.

Skeptics need not look any further than the historical performance by freshman guard Wesley Person.

Person, a Brantley, Ala., native, was the first Troy freshman to start any game since December of 2000.

It was partly due to injuries to guards Oskar Reinfelds and Jeremy Hollimon, but Cunningham said Person was ready to step into the starting role from the second he landed on campus.

“He showed everybody in the gym (Monday night) what he has shown us from day one, and that’s ‘I’m ready,’” Cunningham said. “He has such a professional approach to everything that he does. It’s unreal for a freshman. Every day when he walks in, he’s ready to go.”

And ready to go he certainly was Monday night against the Rebels.

Persons finished the contest with a game-high 25 points, the most for a freshman at Troy since Rob Lewin scored 19 against Nichols State in 2000.

And he wasn’t reckless with possessions either, as he turned the ball over just once all night.

More impressively was how Person scored each of his 25 points.

After scoring just five in the first half — he was 5-5 from behind the free throw line and 0-4 from the field in the first half — Troy headed into the locker room down 34-23.

But in the second half, with their backs up against the wall, Person came up huge for Troy, scoring 20 as the Trojans went on to outscore Ole Miss 41-40 after the half.

Person wasted no time, sinking two 3-pointers in the first minute of the second half, throwing Trojan Arena into a frenzy and forcing an Ole Miss time out.

And the scoring continued.

Person went 5-10 from the field and 5-8 from behind the arc, giving the Trojans hope with under two minutes to play in the game.

He finished the game 5-14 from the field, 5-11 from 3-point range and a perfect 10-10 from the charity stripe.

This is a freshman we’re talking about.

“Our guys were getting me open and getting me some good looks and I was able to make some shots for us,” Person said of his second-half explosion. “We just picked up our intensity and we started getting steals on defense and pushing the tempo.”

And it’s pretty evident the impression Person has already made on his teammates two games into the regular season.

“Coach recruited high-character guys,” senior forward Kevin Thomas said. “He’s intelligent and very skilled as well.”

And if consistency is a concern, don’t worry, Person finished his regular season debut at Troy with 12 points and five assists Friday night against Brewton-Parker.

I know the result wasn’t what Trojan fans might have wanted Monday night, but look deeper, and there is so much more to be excited about than a win in the second week of the regular season.

The Trojans are young this year, but if Person’s performance is any indication of the young recruits Cunningham is bringing in to this program, get ready for a ride, Trojans.

And Wesley Person might just be leading the way.