NTL BOYS' BASKETBALL: TROY LOOKING TO FINISH WHAT THEY STARTED LAST YEAR
(2021-01-10)BY CHRIS MANNINGNorthern Tier Sports Report
The Troy boys’ basketball team comes into the season with both optimism and a chip on their shoulder.
They came one defensive rebound away from winning an NTL title, as, in the final game of the season last year, NP-Mansfield put in an offensive board at the buzzer to beat Troy by one. That swung the league title from Troy to Athens.
“That one hurt a lot,” admitted Ethan VanNoy.
It was definitely a learning experience for the Trojans, who battled through injuries a year ago to compete for the division title.
“Giving effort for every second of the game is something we are preaching,” said assistant coach Cody Martin. “The players are motivated to get back to competing at a championship level.”
Last season was one of the most exciting league races in recent memory as five different teams in Large School we’re either in the running (Troy, Wyalusing, Athens, and Wellsboro) or had a say in who won (NP-Mansfield.)
Even though Wyalusing has dropped down to Small School the Trojans expect another tough year.
“We know that there are a lot of well-coached teams that are going to be tough to beat,” said Martin. “We need to be tough mentally and physically to be able to compete night in and night out.”
With only seven weeks to get a regular season expect four games packed into a week, along with back to backs.
“That’s going to be tough,” said VanNoy, a swingman. “The NTL is pretty deep this year, but it’s exciting.”
Teams are also getting a crash course in their offensive and defensive sets this week after getting three weeks off - and with games starting this week.
However, Troy has a couple advantages.
They return much of last season’s team - the core being a group of juniors and seniors who have spent a lot of time on the court together.
“It’s actually really cool because we have the chemistry we’ve had for two years with each other,” said center Mason Imbt. “Everybody knows each other and how each other plays. It’s a good feeling.”
They will also be adding to that talent thanks to a star studded freshmen class.
“I would say it’s one of the better ones I’ve seen coming up,” said guard Nick Williams. “It would be nice to see what those guys can do.”
And, they have Ty Barrett, one of the most prolific scorers in the NTL. He averaged 23 points per game a season ago and four times went over the 30 point mark.
“It’s honestly pretty cool knowing that he can go out there and score 40 for you on any given night,” Imbt remarked.
The coaches, though, don’t want to have to rely on Barrett like they did at times last year.
“Ty is a good basketball player, but we can not rely on him to score 20 plus points a game,” said Martin. “We are focusing on making the extra pass and being unselfish on the offensive end. We have put in a different style of offense this season, so it is more team based basketball.”
In fact, adding depth is a point of emphasis so far this year as they weren’t able to go too deep in their bench last season, largely due to injury.
“We have an experienced team, but adding depth will be more helpful this year,” said Martin. “We are continuing to communicate the roles of our players. They know that not every player will score 20 points a game, but they can help out in other areas. Communicating player roles is our number one priority right now to become a better team.”
Imbt is another impact player who stepped up as a sophomore a year ago, averaging a double-double in points and rebounds.
“It was definitely a lot of fun,” he said. “A lot better than my freshman year when I wasn’t as good. Hopefully, we can get better this year.”
He’ll have help this year as Jake Deitrick returns after missing all of last season. The 6-foot, 3-inch Imbt and the 6-foot, 4-inch Deitrick should give Troy one of the larger front lines after having one of the smallest last season.
On the perimeter VanNoy emerged as a floor spacer last year, hitting over 35 threes as he averaged eight points per game. Coming into this year he’s worked on his shot while also improved his ball handling.
“Just everything pretty much,” he said. “I’m just practicing, putting up shots.”
Williams shared ball handling duties with Barrett last season, while also playing off the ball as a shooter. He hit more than 30 three-pointers a year ago while also being one of their better perimeter defenders.
“Our team is heavily defensive motivated,” he said. “We like to play hard on the defensive end, that’s what we’ve been working on a lot. A trademark of our team is good defense.”
After coming so close a year ago, and returning so many from that team, the players believe this year is their year.
“This is our year right here,” said Williams. “We’ve got a lot of team chemistry, a lot of us have pretty good varsity experience from the past couple of years, so it should be good.”
It won’t be easy as NP-Mansfield and Wellsboro return much of their line-ups from a year ago. Athens has to rebuild their back court but return a fierce front court while in Division-II NP-Liberty, Sayre, Canton, Wyalusing and NEB can all make cases they they’re just as good as any Division-I team.
“The NTL is going to be very tough,” said Martin. “We anticipate our games to be dogfights each night. So we are trying to mentally and physically prepare our players for this. It is exciting times for the NTL because of the number of teams that are going to be good. There is a lot of great coaches that will have their teams ready each night, so for us, we need to focus on getting better and working together as a team.”
The players, though, know what they’re playing for each time they take the court.
“Obviously we’re playing to win the NTL,” said Imbt. “We’re playing to have fun, but that’s our biggest goal, is to come back as strong as we were last year and hopefully we can win the NTL title…get it done.”
“That motivates us a lot,” added Williams.
It’s been over a decade since Troy has claimed an NTL championship and, for players like VanNoy, ending that drought this year is something they’ve wanted since they were little kids.
“It would be a dream come true.”
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