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Trojan Tour 2017 makes pitstop in Greenville

Hot off the heels of the 2016-2017 season of athletics, Troy University is on a mission—to change public perception and become one of the nation’s elite programs.

The Trojan audience at Cambrian Ridge needed little convincing Thursday during Troy University’s annual Trojan Tour event.  The Trojan Tour is a multi-stop trek across the Southeast in which Troy coaches and administrators reflect on the past year’s successes.

Those successes this past year were numerous, and included a Sun Belt championship for both the men’s and women’s basketball teams as well as a Dollar General Bowl win for Troy’s football team.

Troy University athletic director Jeremy McClain pointed to the obvious reason for the college’s success—student-athletes themselves, the very foundation of the program. Three student-athletes in particular—women’s golf standout Fatima Fernandez Cano, Fort Deposit resident and pitching star Austin Crook and Greenville’s own resident golf star Cam Norman.

“We want them to come to our program and leave as the best version of themselves,” McClain said.  “They leave Troy not only with a degree—that’s just a piece of the puzzle—but also prepared and equipped to tackle what comes next. That means to go out and a get a job, to be good husbands, good wives good friends and good members of society, and to continue to be a Trojan and give back.  Those are all things we want them to be prepared for when they leave Troy, and our programs are designed to do that.  That is an emphasis of ours from the day they get on the campus until the day they leave.”

Barry McKnight, the Voice of the Trojans, continued the Q&A session with a number of Troy University’s coaches, including head men’s and women’s basketball coaches Phil Cunningham and Chandra Rigby respectively.

Rigby spoke on how the women’s basketball team entered the season with a target on their backs following last season’s Sun Belt win, and how those experiences from the previous season set the tone for an encore performance.

“We’re very blessed to win the Sun Belt championship once again back-to-back,” Rigby said. “The difference was that we thought all year that we’d have to fight against complacency.  Because after you win that championship one time, you must find your way to stay hungry or be more hungry than you were before. 

“Our players were hungrier than ever this season.  We didn’t win as many games during the regular season this year, but once again when we got back in that Sun Belt Conference tournament, the players refused to lose and we were able to skate on through there and win that championship again.”

Her expectations for the coming season are similarly high.

“We’re looking to three-peat,” she added. “We have seven new players coming in, so we probably won’t get ranked early in the preseason.  But that’s OK—we’ve been the dark horse before. The only thing we plan on ever playing for is a championship, so we hope you expect us to win it.”

Cunningham spoke of the gauntlet his players experienced as the regular season wound to a close, and how continued games with the NCAA’s elite would eventually put Troy on the map.

“We wanted to do whatever we could under our control to grow the program, and scheduling is something that we do control, for the most part,” Cunningham said, pointing to the scheduling of games against the likes of Kentucky as an example.

“It’s hard to get home games, but we get to choose who we go on the road and play.  And we want an opportunity to play one of the so-called blue bloods of college basketball. We don’t have the tradition that football and baseball have at Troy, but one of the ways to grow is to take our guys on the road and play a game that will in all likelihood be on national television.  We want as many fans to go up there and experience that.”

McKnight then moved to Greenville native Cam Norman, who he said had experienced the best three weeks possible.  Last month, he became the second Troy men’s golfer in three years to qualify as an individual for the NCAA championship. 

At the tournament, he earned the distinction of  having the best individual performance at an NCAA championship in Troy’s Division I men’s golf history.

It was no small feat, and also not one conquered without a great deal of nervousness.

“The first tee-shot each day was pretty nerve-wracking,” he said.  “There were a hundred people at the first tee, and I could barely breathe.  My heart was racing.  But I somehow managed to find the fairway and all of my nerves were gone after that.”

Cunningham closed by asking the Greenville Trojan family to tell others what everyone else already knows.

“Don’t be afraid to expand your vision of what Troy can be,” he said. “What Troy has got going on right now is incredible.  Now is the time where we’ve got to build on it in terms of attendance and support.  It’s such an exciting time to be at Troy, and we can’t let this time slip by.  We’re going to do everything in our power to keep winning, but we’ve got to keep growing our fan bases, as well.”