Scott Cross has Trojans believing

Published 10:28 am Thursday, February 8, 2024

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Last weekend, Troy Coach Scott Cross won his 300th game as a head coach but that number is not the one he’s focused on.

After the game, Cross downplayed the significance of winning his 300th game but later clarified what he means.

“It means that I’ve had a lot of great coaches on staff and a lot of great players to play for me and that I’ve been doing it for a long time,” Cross said. “Don’t get me wrong, when I say that it doesn’t mean anything I’m saying the number 300 doesn’t mean anything. I’m forever thankful for each and every win and they were all the most important win of my career at the time.

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“The only numbers that mattered to me at that time, though, were No. 15 (wins on the season) and No. 9 (conference wins). That’s how I look at it. In the season – as a coach – that’s just how I think you have to approach it. If you’re thinking about 300, or some other number, usually it makes it a little more difficult to get there. I think the thing that helps is narrowing your focus and making sure the only thing that matters is the game sitting in front of you.”

Troy opened the season with a pedestrian 5-6 record in the first 11 games but then reeled off six wins in a row and are now in the midst of another five-game winning streak and have grabbed first place in the Sun Belt Conference.

“I think probably once we beat Eastern Kentucky (on Dec. 21, 2023) and beat Coastal Carolina (on Dec. 30) I felt like with each win the guys believed a little bit more,” Cross continued. “The more they believed, the more they bought into what we were preaching to them. The more they did that, the more success we had and it just kind of snowballed.”
That belief has now turned into confidence that his team feels it can win every single time they touch the court.

“Now, I think every time they step foot on the court they believe 100 percent,” he emphasized. “You always think you can win but actually believing you can win – you’re supposed to win – is a small but very important difference. I think our guys have that belief.”

Troy boasts a roster that features veterans like All-Sun Belt player Christyon Eugene and playmakers like Jackson Fields and Aamer Muhammad, but the fresh, new faces on the roster have really made a difference for the Trojans.

“You can’t even put into words the value that our new guys – even just our freshmen – have had,” said Cross. “Thomas Dowd brings that toughness and crashing the offensive boards every single time. He’s one of the hardest working players I’ve ever been around.

“Myles Rigsby the last 4-5 games you can make a case has been one of our best all-around players, and if not the best, he’s definitely one of the best. Victor Valdes hasn’t played as many minutes but has helped us win quite a few games. He’s another guy that can pass, dribble and shoot and create offense for other guys. Tayton Conerway has been probably our best points-per-minute guy on the team and the most lethal scorer coming off the bench. Randarius Jones has been a bull in the china shop the last few games. We knew he could do that and it was nice to see the impact he’s had. Our new guys have been absolutely phenomenal for us.”

Cross pointed to a play that some of the new faces and veterans made together in the 300th win that stands out as one of the best he’s ever seen.

“That play that (Rigsby) made where he dove on the floor (against Georgia State) and threw it to Aamer and then he threw it off the glass to (Eugene) was a program defining play right there,” Cross said. “It’s one of the best plays I’ve ever been a part of as a basketball coach. I knew we were going to win the game when that happened.”

Cross emphasized that he likes to keep his focus at the game ahead of him but he also has some lofty goals for this team.

“We want to win each and every game we play. We want to win a conference championship,” he said. “I definitely want to win more games than we did last year and would like to set the all-time mark at Troy. That’s a lofty goal but it can be done. We would also like to go to the NCAA Tournament, which isn’t an easy task but I think we have a team capable of doing it.

“We just have to be playing our best basketball that week of the Sun Belt Tournament and be the toughest team out there. If we do those things, we’re a team that can definitely win it.”