WHERE ARE THEY NOW: TROY B-BALL PLAYERS RECALL MAGICAL RUN
(2020-12-29)BY CHRIS MANNINGNorthern Tier Sports Report
A little over 10 years ago Troy boys’ basketball had two magical seasons back to back.
In 2009, the Trojans won the NTL title in an exciting overtime, winner take all playoff victory against Athens, a team that had defeated twice during the regular season.
The following year they swept the league in dominant fashion en route to a second straight NTL title.
“It’s hard to believe how quickly these years have gone by since that time,” said former guard Chris Stroup. “10 years occurred in the blink of an eye.”
Stroup and fellow guard Jordan Brunelle both went over the 1,000 point plateau, and Brunelle is currently the all-time leading scorer at Troy.
Those two, plus Bryant House, were the Co-Players of the Year in the NTL their senior year.
“It’s a lot of fun remembering our successful seasons,” said Brunelle. “But we actually experienced more losses than wins my freshman and sophomore years, which made that 2-year run all the more special. It was something we really worked for, and we truly believe we earned it - through endless summer league games, practices, open gyms, etc. It really was the commitment of our entire team that led to our success those two seasons.”
Brunelle’s ability to get to the basket - and the free throw line - combined with Stroup’s outside shooting was a tough 1-2 punch to defend. However, it was on the defensive end they really excelled, as both players were amongst the best at pressuring the ball full court.
A lot of their points came off turnovers that led to easy lay-ins, such as Brunelle’s record breaking lay-up to earn the all-time scoring title at Troy.
“Having two team members reach that milestone is so rare,” said Stroup. “And I could not have been happier to have been in the club with Jordan, whom was one of the most prolific scorers in our time.”
House really came on his senior year, stepping into that third offensive threat role. At 6-foot, 4-inches he could shoot from the outside, drive to basket and take advantage of smaller defenders in the paint.
“I look back at it often because those are memories that we can cherish forever,” said House. “I will never forget the nerves and excitement I felt before each game, and the bond both those teams had I don’t think can ever be replaced as we all grew up together playing together; and the chemistry showed on the court!”
All three were part of the same class, along with Brandon Cole and Eric Reeves. All five players complimented each other well - Cole the hard nosed defender and ball handler while Reeves did a lot of dirty work down low and on defense.
"I...enjoyed playing on defense," said Cole. "I liked knowing that if I just worked harder than the other player I would be able to stop them. I enjoyed my role on offense, too. I obviously didn't have to be a big scorer with the type of talent we had, so I just had to try to get creative in getting them the ball."
So, while Cole and Reeves may not have any individual accolades, they can look to their NTL championship banners as their reward.
“It’s nice to know that we were able to leave our marks on the school to be remembered as one of the known teams to come through Troy High School’s basketball program,” said Reeves. “It’s rewarding to know, that when people see those years on the banners in the gym, they can hopefully remember who we were and all that we stood for.”
They each have their own vivid memories to draw from as they get nostalgic about their run.
“The feeling of cutting down the net after each NTL Championship,” said House. “I will hold those memories forever. The team photo we took after each one and just looking around at all the guys that made it happen makes playing a team sport all worthwhile!”
Stroup remembers their final two games of their junior and senior seasons. Their junior year they lost to Notre Dame Green Pond in the state tournament while their senior year they lost in the district tournament.
“It is one of those losses that still haunts me a little bit to this day,” said Stroup about the loss to ND-Green Pond. “Along with our last game in a Troy uniform against Lewisburg.”
He’s also carried some of his favorite stories with him wherever he’s gone.
“I still have some clippings from The Daily Review of those years stored in a box in my Los Angeles apartment,” said Stroup. “Some of my favorites are the NTL champion stories, scoring my 1,000th point and then having Jordan break the school’s all-time scoring record the very next game.”
For Brunelle, basketball was very much a family affair. After he broke the school record he took the game ball up into the stands and hugged his mother.
“I spent my childhood going to Troy basketball games with my grandfather, and winning an NTL title was something I dreamed about as a kid, so it was pretty special getting to win one with my grandpa in the stands,” he said.
Brunelle also enjoyed the trip to Allentown for the state game.
“Getting to travel further than we normally would, staying in a hotel as a team and play in front of a big crowd was really an awesome experience,” he said.
For Reeves, just playing with his friends, and seeing their accomplishments, are his best memories.
“I had a minimal role statistically,” he said. “But it was such an honor to have a contribution to our team’s success with those championships and their individual accolades.”
He pointed out Brunelle’s 1000th point, Stroup’s 1000th point game just days before Brunelle’s record setting achievement, along with Brunelle, Stroup and House earning tri-MVP.
“My best memories were that I got to play the game that I love with my best friends in school,” said Reeves. “They were all more than just my teammates. We did everything together, even outside of basketball, and that is what made us all able to grow so close. I remember how packed the stands always were and how everyone was always so excited to watch us play.”
Cole simply enjoyed being a long for the ride.
"Some of my favorite memories from playing back then was being a part of something pretty successful," Cole said.
Brunelle recently found old film of their game and has been able to share it with his old teammates.
“Quite a few of us still talk regularly, but I do miss all of my teammates,” he said. “It’s a challenge because many of us live in different states now, but it’s always a lot of fun when we’re able to see each other, whether one of us is traveling to another city or we’re meeting up in PA around the holidays. Several of my teammates were in my wedding a few years ago, which was a great opportunity to get us together again.”
Cole, for one, enjoyed the trip down memory lane.
"It was cool to relive some of the games when Jordan sent the game film," said Cole. "We all had some good discussions when he did that, about old times and the way we all played. It was nice to catch up."
However, the further they get away from that moment, the harder it becomes to keep in touch.
“I wish we could stay in touch more, but life sometimes can get in the way,” said House. “It’s always nice catching up with the guys whenever we do see each other. It’s crazy how fast time flies by.”
They do, though, try to take advantage of the times they are in close proximity.
“I usually make my own effort to send them a text at least monthly just to let them know that I am thinking about them,” said Reeves. “They all equally try to do the same.”
Reeves keeps most in touch with House, Stroup and Brunelle.
“Bryant still resides in Troy, so any time I am in the area I try to make the effort to go and see him,” said Reeves. “Chris was just home from California within the last couple weeks and we met up for dinner to catch up.”
As with a lot of graduates, some scatter to the four corners of the Earth while others plant themselves a little bit closer.
House is currently living in Troy as he just switched jobs from automobiles to finance.
“I’m excited for the opportunity and see where I can grow in the banking industry,” he said.
Reeves attended Lock Haven University and earned a dual Bachelor’s Degree in Sports Medicine/Athletic Training and Health and Physical Education. He was a trainer for NEB for two years before moving to Kirkwood, New York after getting engaged.
He worked as an athletic trainer for the United Health Services for two years and then became a float athletic trainer.
Recently, Reeves has been a trainer for Susquehanna Valley High School, who won a state football title in 2018, which he got to ride along with. He also married his wife, Allison, in 2018.
As of now Reeves decided to go back to school and was accepted into Marywood University’s Physician Assistant Program, where he’s currently during clinical rotations. He will finish in May with his Masters in PA Studies and will have to sit for his National Board of Certification Exam.
Before that, though, he and his wife are expecting their first child in March, 2021.
Stroup attended Schreyer Honors College at Penn State and earned a degree in Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering, graduating in 2014. After graduation he took a job with Chevron in Bakersfield, California working as a Reservoir Engineer in the heavy oil fields of the San Joaquin Valley.
After three years he decided to take a leave of absence to study for his MBA at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
“My MBA opened me up to opportunities outside of the oil and gas industry,” said Stroup. “It was during this period that I decided to leave Chevron and undergo a career pivot into Wealth Management.”
Before graduating with his MBA in May 2019 he landed a job as a Wealth Advisor working for Abacus Wealth Partners in Santa Monica, California.
“Over the past 1.5 years I have been living in Los Angeles,” said Stroup. “For work, I completed the Personal Financial Planning Program at UCLA in May 2020, and then recently passed the September 2020 CFP exam in order to obtain my Certified Financial Planner designation.”
Outside work Stroup enjoys the mild California weather.
“Most weekends are spent playing sand volleyball in Santa Monica with friends or enjoying hikes in the Malibu Mountains,” said Stroup.
Brunelle moved to Nashville after graduation and attended Lipscomb University, where he majored in English Literature.
“After finishing up college, I took a job at Capital Records as a digital marketing manager,” he said. “This gave me an opportunity to work with some world-class artists in the fast-paced, exciting environment that is the music industry.”
Now, though, he works in book publishing and spends time with his wife Emily, 3-year old son Luca and month old daughter Genevieve.
“We love visiting our local library, coffee shop, and park,” said Brunelle. “In recent years, I’ve fallen in love with fly fishing and hiking. Getting outside has been invaluable for us, especially during this whirlwind of a year.”
However, he still gets on the court when he can.
“I also play pickup basketball every chance I get!”
Cole lives in Athens and works in the supervising department of the Jeld-Wen plant in Wysox.
"I've had three kids along the way who are eight, four and two," he said. "I enjoy coaching some of their youth teams when I can, so sports are still a big part of my life."
However, no matter where they go, their 2-year run as NTL champs will always stay with them.
“At a smaller school like Troy, you end up with a core group of kids who will play on a team together from fifth grade through varsity,” said Brunelle. “That was really special to me, having the opportunity to play in tournaments as a 12-year old with most of the same guys who I would one day win some NTL Championships with. The leadership of Coach Woodward also impacted my life in a huge way. He taught us to do the little things right, work harder than anyone else, and take responsibility for our work. These are just a few lessons I’ve taken from high school basketball and applied to life as an adult.”
The effort, sacrifice and discipline from those years have stuck with Stroup as he weaves his way through adulthood.
“Even though my time on the court has come to an end, these qualities have become a staple of how I approach life to this day,” said Stroup. “It just goes to show that those days were more than just about winning league titles, but about learning the skills that would allow me to excel well beyond the hardwood.”
There were no egos on the Troy team.
"Coach Woodward preached a lot about team unity and playing for each other, which is something I try to instill as well," said Cole.
House was most affected by the camaraderie exhibited by his teammates.
“Those teams taught me respect and patience more than anything,” he said. “The fact of how unselfish my teammates were and the number of guys that wanted the best for each other, knowing we had one goal, and that is something you can carry on in life as well. The patience aspect is simply that all good things come in time with hard work and a positive mindset.”
And for Reeves, it’s all about the friendships that basketball enhanced as they grew from children to adults.
“It truly shaped and changed my life for the better,” he said. “As mentioned, they were not just my teammates, they were all of my best friends from high school. We weren’t just a ‘basketball season’ type of group, we hung out together year round, and did all sorts of things together. Being that we were all so close as friends, it just was a bonus to be able to play a game that we all loved in basketball.”
CUTLINE: (Clockwise from top left) Chris Stroup, Eric Reeves, Jordan Brunelle and Bryant House - PHOTOS PROVIDED.
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