Trojans open season Tuesday night

Published 5:52 pm Wednesday, November 3, 2021

The Troy Trojans men’s basketball team begins the 2021 season on Tuesday night when they host Carver.

Tuesday’s game will be the first of 15 games played inside Trojan arena this winter. The Trojans will play 13 non-conference games this season beginning with Carver.

“Our guys are ready to get this started, I know I am,” head coach Scott Cross said. “It’s going to be about 16 or 17 days since our last scrimmage. We are ready to play someone else and make them starting counting for real.”

This season’s squad will feature two seniors in Khalyl Waters and Nick Stampley. The roster will have six juniors, three sophomores and six freshman. All returning players were granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA.

“We wanted to get older this year,” Cross said. “We probably got a little too ambitious last year signing too many freshman. I think in the Sun Belt Conference you have to have some experience. I think in any league the older you are usually going to be. I thought we could get it done last year, but our youth caught up with us. This year we will be a lot older and a lot more mature.

“Our size is going to be a lot bigger. We are bringing in a guy like Nathan Tshimanga, who is 6’9”, can play the small forward position for us. I mean we could potentially have a big front line if we decide to go that route.”

Stampley took advantage of an added year of eligibility and decided to make his return and play in his third season for the Trojans.

“I didn’t like how our season ended last year,” Stampley said. “I felt like I could do so much more for coach Cross and vice versa; He can help me. My main goal is to get better and keep working out with coach Mangrum.”

Stampley started all 27 games for the Trojans last season and led the team averaging 12.6 points per game. He finished second on the team with seven rebounds per game.

“Nick is the ultimate coach’s dream,” Cross said. “He is a guy who does everything for the team. He rebounds, he defends, he takes charges. I didn’t even know it until I started looking beyond the stats a little bit, but I think he is the fourth leading returning player in the Sun Belt in scoring. What he is, is a guy who does everything. He is a winner and we are very thankful to have him on the team.”

The Trojans brought in plenty of new faces this season. Along with Tshimanga, the Trojans will feature plenty of new players, including freshman Duke Dean. The transfer averaged 20 points per game at Panola College last season. He shot 44.6 percent from the floor and 41 percent from behind the arc. Cross believes Dean has the potential to be an immediate fan favorite.

“He’s the shortest guy on the team, but he is a competitor,” Cross said. “He is one of the most competitive guys I have ever been around. He will be diving on the floor and flying around defensively. I think he will be a fan favorite for sure.”

Stampley also has high hopes in Dean, calling him the best shooter in the Sun Belt.

Newcomers who can also play valuable minutes will be UTEP transfer Efe Odigie, Rifen Miguel and Lydell Geffrard.

With the addition of the new players, Cross is planning to shake up the way they play this season.

“We will play a little bit faster,” Cross said. “It’s hard to play fast when you don’t have a certain level of skill. We will be able to do that. In the half court, we will pound the ball inside as much as we can. We do feel like we have guys that can score. Odigie is a big, strong back to the basket guy who can score as good as anyone in our league. Rifen Miguel is another transfer from Ohio who can score down low. Lydell Geffrard, who sat out last year, has the ability to score as well.”

The Trojans enter the season picked to finish in a tie for ninth place by the league’s coaches. Georgia State was picked to finish first with Louisiana and Texas State picked to finish in second and third.

“I think the league is going to be better this year than it was last year,” Cross said. “Pretty much every team is returning the majority of their guys, with the exception of South Alabama. If you look at the guys they signed, they are some high level guys. They are going to be super talented. Georgia State, who was one of the best teams, returns everybody, Texas State returns almost their entire roster. App State, who went to the tournament, returns pretty much their whole team. Any given night it’s going to be a blood bath. We know what we are up against. We have to play our best basketball in order to win.”

Game time between Troy and Carver is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. The game can be seen on ESPN+.

“I have been counting down the days,” Cross said. “For it to finally be here you can kind of feel the excitement. Our guys have worked extremely hard up to this point and we are ready to go.”