Trojans hitting the court

Published 3:00 am Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Troy Trojan men’s basketball team returns to the court this Friday night when as they travel to Tampa, Florida, to take on the South Florida Bulls.

The Trojans defeated Auburn-Montgomery 97-70 in a Friday exhibition game at Trojan Arena.

The Trojans are coming off a 2014-15 season that saw them finish last in the Sun Belt Conference with just 10 wins. Injuries played a major role in the Trojan struggles, but so far this year the Trojans are healthy and are excited to see what the 2015 season will bring.

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“So far so good,” said Troy head coach Phil Cunningham. “It feels good to have an entire roster and have everybody healthy. Our practices are so much more competitive and overall they have improved because you have bodies out there.”

One key play returning is last year’s Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year, Wesley Person.

As a freshman, Person set a Division-1 record in total points with 412 on the season. Person averaged 14.2 points per game, which was good enough for 10th in the conference.

This season, Person will once again be looked at as a key member on the team, but with a little more depth on the roster he may have a little help.

“I think his points could be very similar to what they were last year just because we have more balanced scoring,” Cunningham said. “He has made an improvement over the summer and throughout the preseason.”

Person looks forward to the team taking the next step forward this season and being able to improve.

“I want to help my team get some wins this year,” Person said. “We have almost a completely different team this year. It’s going to be tough at fist getting these newer guys some experience but with the right mindset and the right pieces we will be able to do some things early.”

The Trojans may have the next winner of the freshman of the year coming off the bench in Jordan Varnado. The 6 foot, 6 inch freshman forward led his high school team to a 35-2 record in his senior season while clinching a state championship.

“He is ready play and has a versatile skill set,” Cunningham said. “He is mature for his age. He and Wesley are very similar in terms of their day-to-day approach and mentality.”

The Trojans are entering the third season with Cunningham as head coach and the number one challenge continues to be obtaining a wealth of experience. That will continue at least in the early stages of the season. The Trojans only have one senior on the roster in John Walton III and have nine freshman and sophomores.

“I see the players in practice every day, but we are just unproven,” Cunningham said. “I think the talent is there and I like the way we are playing. I like our overall quickness and athleticism and the way we shoot the ball. We just have some guys that are untested. There is no way to know until we actually do it.”

The Sun Belt Conference schedule should be deep in 2015 and the Trojans will have to fight an uphill battle to get to where they need to be.

“It’s a very balanced conference,” Cunningham said. “Every team has players coming back. Louisiana-Lafayette is probably the cream of the crop. I think the league is pretty strong from top to bottom.”

According to preseason polls the Trojans are expected to once again finish near the bottom of the conference.

“We don’t talk about it,” Cunningham said. “The coaches in this league really don’t know anything about our team. They know about Wesley and John Walton but we have seven guys that they don’t know much at all.”

You don’t have to look past last year to find an example of team picked to finish near the bottom of the conference and wound up finishing the season near the top.

Last season Georgia Southern was picked to finish in ninth placed and wound up finishing in second place in the conference during the regular season.

The Trojans will start the season with a non-conference schedule that should offer up plenty of challenges. Before the Trojans begin conference play at the first of the year they will have tough match ups with UAB, Southern Mississippi, Austin Peay, Seton Hall and Ole Miss.

The Trojans will take on their first tough task Friday evening when they take on the USF Bulls at 7:30 p.m.