Guard Kelton Ford, small forward Christian Harrison and forward Damion Ottman have left the Troy Trojans program, the Dothan Eagle has confirmed.
The website verbalcommits.com first reported the transfers of Ford and Ottman.
Of the three, Ford leaves with the most experience. The junior played in 82 games in his career and made 15 starts in the 2014-15 season – one riddled with injuries for Troy.
In his sophomore campaign, the Horse Cave, Ky., native averaged 7.3 points per game, an average that dipped to 2.7 points per game this past season. Ford’s shooting percentages also dropped this season from 35.5 percent overall to 31.7 and from 24.1 percent from behind the arc to 16 percent.
Troy Trojans forward John Walton III knows what is stake, which may explain his recent stretch of big games in Sun Belt Conference play.
Walton is averaging 18.2 points per game and 9.4 rebounds per game in the last five contests, numbers that surpass his season averages of 11.0 ppg and 7.9 rpg.
After Troy began Sun Belt play 1-10, it has won two of its last three contests. Walton, who has found some extra motivation, has been a huge part of the recent uptick.
“(It’s) just a different mindset, really. We’re sitting at the bottom of the conference right now, and it’s just desperation mode,” the Memphis, Tenn., product said. “I’m just trying to do whatever I can do to help our team win, and that’s pretty much my whole mindset now.”
Troy softball pitcher Ashley Rainey will be charged with leading the Trojans’ rotation in her senior year, but she can easily access some guidance from someone who has walked that same path.
Former Trojan hurler Jaycee Affeldt recently joined the coaching staff as a volunteer assistant – just months removed from being the senior leader of the Troy pitching staff herself.
Rainey and Affeldt arrived at Troy in 2011, but Rainey had to redshirt the 2013 season following shoulder surgery – giving her one year longer with the softball program as a player. With Affledt still with the program in a coaching role, Rainey said her former roommate can provide her with guidance for her senior season.
“It’s really awesome to have a friend (and someone who is) knowledgeable about the game as a pitcher to help me, to make me a better pitcher,” she said.
A couple of freshmen from the Wiregrass area will get chances early this season to help the Troy Trojans fill spots in the back end of the pitching rotation or the bullpen.
After strong high school careers, Scott Stough of Geneva and Cory Gill of Cottonwood had promising efforts during fall practices and have earned at least the chance to contribute in 2016.
“Their work to his point suggests they’re going to have a chance to help this program, but until we get them out there and see how comfortable they look, that’s going to be the final judge,” Trojans head coach Mark Smartt said on Jan. 29, the day Troy opened spring practices. “I think they’ve got a chance to be really good.”
Stough had an impressive career for the Geneva Panthers. The hard-throwing lefthander struck out an AHSAA-best 155 batters in 77 innings in 2015 as the Panthers reach the Class 3A state championship series.
The top two spots in Troy Trojans baseball’s rotation are set, and if Marc Skinner has a rebound year, the closer role will also likely be filled.
Skinner won Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year for the 2014 season after posting a 1.52 ERA in 31 appearances. He went 6-1 that season and earned five saves while piling up 70 strikeouts in 65 innings pitched.
Skinner’s sophomore campaign, however, was not nearly as successful.
Skinner struggled to a 2-3 record with a 4.46 ERA in 2015. Opponents batted .265 off of him after just hitting .238 in 2014.
It is impossible to get all the information gleaned from National Signing Day into one article – unless it is an extremely long story. So here are a few more notes about Troy’s 2016 signing class.
• Troy head coach Neal Brown mentioned the strength of the new class will likely be the defensive line, specifically pass rushers. The Trojans signed seven linebackers and defensive lineman, and it appears that four have the potential to play defensive end or the “bandit” position -- a hybrid linebacker/defensive end position.
Of those, Kelvin Lucky and Zo Bridges had three-star rankings, according to the recruiting services.
“As an offensive playcaller, that being my background, I know those guys wreak havoc. You got to really know where they’re at, and to add four guys that could potentially rush the passer and win on any particular play is huge,” Brown said.
The Troy Trojans had to play a little defense to keep several of their commitments in the 2016 signing class from inking with bigger schools.
Troy had seven three-star commitments, according to 247sports.com, and many of those players had offers from Power 5 schools – those in the Big 12, Big 10, SEC, ACC and Pac 12.
“A couple of guys that had those type of offer lists are Sam Letton, tight end from Walton High School in Marietta, (Georgia),” Trojans head coach Neal Brown said. “Obviously Kelvin Lucky and Zo Bridges – those are some guys with big-time offers that chose to come play at Troy University.”
The Trojans also had several commitments before the 2015 season began and managed to hang on to most of them. Brown said managing the recruiting calendar well helps a coaching staff build relationships that last.
While the Troy baseball lineup will have several fresh faces, the Trojans do return a few key pieces to the lineup.
Trojans head coach Mark Smartt expects sophomores Reid Long and Matt Sanders to lead the pack of returning players at the plate.
“The two guys that will draw the most attention early are Matt Sanders, who started a higher percentage of our games at shortstop last year, and Reid Long in left field,” he said. “We’re gonna look for them to improve their play from their freshmen year to their sophomore year. I’m very pleased with the progress they’ve made in the fall. Hopefully they’ll get off to a good start.”
Long, a Marianna, Fla., product, garnered Louisville Slugger Freshmen All-America honors last year after hitting .275 with nine doubles, six triples, eight homers and 30 RBIs. The triples number led the Sun Belt Conference.
While the main topic of yesterday’s interview with Troy athletics director Jeremy McClain addressed the cost of attendance stipends, I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about some other subjects.
On what is next in marketing/game promotions: “We are constantly working on what the future looks like for us from a marketing, external standpoint. We’ve spent a great amount of time over the last several months (on that). When I got here at the beginning of football season, it was a little bit of a rush. We were able to do a few things, but as we kind of move into baseball and football season again and basketball season again, as that cycle continues, we’ll have an opportunity to affect (plans) a little more. Expect to see some things from us that’s a little bit different. The key is just getting the message out there. When we start talking about marketing and messaging, it’s just about telling the story and making sure people are plugged into what you’re doing. We’ll be working hard this spring to lay out a plan for some things.
On merchandising: “It’s kind of a moving target, and I say that because it’s an ongoing deal. As we talk about our plan moving forward in marketing – telling our story -- the apparel/merchandising piece is a big part of that. How de improve that? Where do we put our resources? There’s a lot of moving parts to that, but it definitely is a front-burner issue for us to try and address -- just to make sure our folks feel represented, have the opportunity to purchase gear when they want to. I think for all of us sometimes it’s just a sense of pride from walking in a store and seeing Troy gear in a prominent spot. As this spring unfolds and we kind of put a plan together, that will be a big part of it.”
On adjustment to Troy: “Troy’s been great for us as a family, which is always the first thing you got to get right. The transition has been smoother than we could have ever imagined, so Troy has felt like home from the very first day. The kids have gotten settled in school. We were able to get a house, able to connect into the community, so I’m very thankful for that. It makes the rest of it a little easier. We appreciate the people of the community and how welcoming and warm they have been.
The Troy Trojans’ fifth-leading tackler and a starting offensive lineman have left the team, the Dothan Eagle confirmed Thursday night.
Luke Lawrence, who made seven starts this season at various spots on the offensive line, and linebacker Mitchell Roland have hung up their cleats after their junior campaigns.
Lawrence, who recently earned his degree in risk management insurance, played in 11 games this season and started the last four. He also made appearances in six games in his sophomore year, missing the first six games due to a foot injury, and played in eight games as an offensive lineman in his freshman campaign.
Roland, a backup linebacker his entire Trojan career, made 50 tackles this year -- including one for a loss. As a sophomore, the Auburn High product made 30 tackles and added a fumble recovery and a pass breakup.