Troy basketball begins season against Fort Valley State

Published 1:01 pm Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Troy basketball team begins the 2018-2019 season this evening against Fort Valley State inside Trojan Arena.

The Trojans finished last season with a 16-17 overall record and a 9-9 Sun Belt Conference record.

The Trojans enter the season predicted to finish fourth by the league’s coaches. Senior Jordon Varnado, who was picked to the Preseason All-Sun Belt team, will be asked to lead a team with a mix of veterans and new talent.

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“I don’t think I have been on a staff with a team of so many new guys, but yet we have four starters from the end of the year back,” said head coach Phil Cunningham. “The new guys, three or four of them will play. They have to step up and do something they haven’t done. They have to be a big part of it.”
Redshirt sophomore Darian Adams played in all 32 games last season and averaged 2.9 points per game. Adams will be pushed to the starting lineup to begin the season.

“He has been in our program for a couple years,” Cunningham said. “He’s a really good shooter and knows how to play. He has to do something that he hasn’t done yet, but he is capable.”

Devante Foster and Charles Norman will be two junior college transfers that are fighting to get into the rotation.

The Trojans welcomed in freshmen KJ Simon, Zay Williams and Spencer Rodgers.

“There is still a lot of competition to see who are going to be those next three guys,” Cunningham said.

One player that is sure to get quality minutes is Varnado. The senior played in 26 games for the Trojans last year. He led the team with 18 points per game and scored in double digits in all but two of his games played. He missed time last year due to injury, but looks to be healthy entering his senior year.

“I still think he had a really good year,” Cunningham said. “They shut him down for six weeks. When he came back, he was rusty and his conditioning was effected. By the end of the season, I thought he was playing as well as anybody in the league. He his healthy now; he is the leanest he’s been since he has been here. He has spent a lot of time in the gym. He has a chance to have a special senior year.”

Georgia State was picked as the conference’s best team heading into the season. Georgia Southern and Louisiana-Lafayette tied for second with 125 votes and ULM and Troy were picked to finish in fourth.

The Sun Belt Conference was ranked near the top when it came to conferences within the Group of Five.

“It’s one of the best mid-major leagues in the country,” Cunningham said. “It doesn’t get a whole lot of national attention. When we went to the NCAA Tournament two years ago, from an RPI standpoint, our conference was ranked one spot below the Missouri Valley. There are no easy games. The league is so spread out. It’s so hard to have a 12, 13-win season within the league. The league is so spread out. It goes all the way to the Carolinas and goes all the way to west Texas. There are a lot of different styles.”

There will be a familiar face on the Trojan bench this season: former Charles Henderson guard Jalen Tuck will be a member of the Trojans as a walk-on.

“The first thing that stands out is that he is off the chart character-wise,” Cunningham said. “He is a terrific young man. He works hard every day. I don’t think he expects to play one minute, but he works as hard as anyone in the gym. He has been a terrific addition. He will have an impact on this team. He is a talented enough player that if he will really go to work, by his junior or senior year he has a chance to be in the rotation.”