Troy women’s hoops ready to return to the hardwood

Published 11:18 am Tuesday, October 31, 2023

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Chanda Rigby is entering her 12th year as the head coach of the Troy Trojans women’s basketball team and after already making history, her team is looking to make even more.

During Rigby’s tenure, Troy has won five Sun Belt Conference Championships in the last eight years, made the NCAA Tournament three times, earned seven total postseason tournament appearances and her teams have won 209 games. While that success is historic already, Rigby and the Trojans have much more in mind.

“We can’t get any (goals) accomplished unless we win another conference championship but we also want to win a national championship,” Rigby flatly said. “It felt just as crazy to say we wanted to win conference championships and make the NCAA Tournament when we first started this journey at Troy when we were second to last in the nation. We don’t take anything for granted, it will be tough (to make the NCAA Tournament) again but we also want to raise the expectations here to the national level. We want to win games in the NCAA Tournament and win a national championship.”

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In the age of the Transfer Portal, Troy is already ahead of many teams in the country with the vast majority of last season’s team returning for 2023-2024. That consistency has led to some early preseason success in practices.

“Practices have been going pretty good. We have strung together four or five pretty good practices, which is something we really haven’t done before at this time of year,” Rigby said. “We usually have more bad days than good this time of year, but they’re getting after it and are starting to buy in and do what our system requires.

“We have pretty much all the returners back this season from last year’s team and we added some really nice pieces, too.”

Those returning players includes a trio of returning All-Sun Belt athletes in forward Tai’Sheka Porchia (12.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and one steal per game), forward Ja’Mia Hollings (12.7 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game) and guard Makayia Hallmon (15 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 2.5 assists per game). Other veteran returners include guard Nia Daniel (12.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and one steal per game), guard Sharonica Hartsfield (4.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and two steals per game), guard Gabbi Cartagena and guard Shaniah Nunn.

“Everyone looks at mid-major programs when you have an all-conference player and thinks they’re going to jump into the portal,” Rigby continued. “That’s what happens this day and age, but we’re thankful for our players. We really didn’t have anyone that wanted to transfer out and go somewhere else. We had three all conference players, which is almost unheard of with 14 teams in the conference and so many great players. Ja’Mia and Tai’Sheka have never been in the portal before and could very easily have transferred out but they love Troy and wanted to stay here.”

While none of Troy’s starters hit the portal last season, Troy was able to benefit from it, even signing some Sun Belt transfers. Those transfers include former Eastern Florida guard Leilan Guion, former Arkansas State guard Leilani Augmon, Monroe College transfer Sara Carvajal Caro, Wabash Valley transfer guard Shaulan Wagner and former Georgia State forward Zay Dyer.

Rigby said that Dyer and Augmon – the two in-conference transfers – knew they wanted to transfer to Troy without even taking a visit.

“(Augmon) scored 16 on us last year when they came to Troy. She didn’t even come on a visit,” said Rigby. “When we called her after she entered the portal, she said, ‘Yes, this is where I want to go. I want to play for Troy.’ We’re very happy to have her skillset and her attitude of wanting to be at Troy.

“Zay Dyer, I thought was the best freshman in the conference last year. She also scored a lot of points on us. She’s a post player and she’s won our rebound competition more days than anybody else and that is saying a lot because Tai’Sheka and Jamia are here and we led the nation in offensive rebounds. When she went into the portal we called her and she also was, like ‘Yeah, I want to play at Troy.’ The winning in the conference and the style of play we play, I think kids see that and know it pays off.”

Another key to the 2023-2024 Trojans could be the potential return of former All-Sun Belt player Felmas Koranga. Koranga played in just four games last season before an injury derailed her senior campaign. After receiving a waiver from the NCAA, she is eligible to play again this season but isn’t quite ready yet.

“The NCAA cleared her but she has not been (medically) released to play yet,” Rigby said. “She’s also working on her clinicals in counseling for her master’s degree. When she finishes that, we’re hoping that it’s timed up where she will be fully (medically) cleared then. We definitely hope to have her back at some point in the near future and that will definitely give us a boost, as well.”

The Trojans also added a new piece to the coaching staff in former Ole Miss star Stephanie Murphy, who was a head coach at Coahoma Community College for five seasons. Murphy brings her defensive expertise to the Trojans at the perfect time.

“We have made a complete commitment to defense,” Rigby emphasized. “Stephanie Murphy was hired as an assistant coach and that is what she is doing. She is doing our man-to-man defense and is holding our players accountable all the way from transition defense to half court defense.

“We’re still going to throw in my ‘jump defenses’ to keep people off balance but when it’s time to get a stop we want to be better in those situations. There is no question we are better now in defense than we have been in the past and we believe that will only continue to get better and grow from here.”

Troy opens the season next Monday, Nov. 6, for a preseason exhibition against West Alabama at home at 6 p.m., but the regular season begins on Nov. 11 as the Trojans host Ball State in the first game of the MAC-SBC Challenge. The game will be at 3:30 p.m. at Trojan Arena.