Photo: 2017 Gadsden City High graduate and University of Missouri redshirt freshman Haley Troup (11) drives against Florida’s Corey Staples in a college basketball game earlier this year.
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Perseverance certainly has paid off for Haley Troup over the past year.
After sitting out the 2017-18 college basketball season following a transfer from the University of South Carolina, the 2017 Gadsden City High graduate and University of Missouri redshirt freshman Haley Troup was a key contributor to the Lady Tigers’ run to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
In 35 games this past season, Troup finished with 116 points, 41 rebounds and 34 assists. She scored a season-high 16 points in the Lady Tigers’ 66-64 win over Vanderbilt in early January.
Missouri finished with a 24-11 record overall and 10-6 in the Southeastern Conference. After qualifying for the national tournament, the Lady Tigers defeated Drake, 77-76, in overtime in the opening round before losing 68-52 to Iowa.
After averaging more than 20 minutes a game down the stretch of the regular season and into the playoff, Troup played only 11 minutes against Iowa.
There was a reason for that reduction in minutes, however.
Near the end of the Drake game, Troup suffered a severe Grade 3 ankle sprain, an injury that forced her to wear a protective boot for the next 48 hours. Troup underwent almost around-the-clock rehabilitation with the team trainer and doctor in order to suit up for the Iowa game just two days away.
“It was really weird how it happened,” she said. “I had just passed the ball and went to move and cut, and my ankle just gave out. It was pretty painful, and I really couldn’t put any weight on it at all until game day on Sunday. I was icing it pretty much all day and all night.”
Against Iowa, Troup noted that she was unable to move laterally on defense or effectively push off her foot while shooting.
“There really was no way that I should have been out there playing [against Iowa],” said Troup, who had had six points, three rebounds, one assist and one steal against Drake before leaving the game. “But wanted to be out there for my teammates, especially the seniors.”
Despite Missouri’s season-ended loss to the Lady Hawkeyes, Troup said the experience of playing in a sold-out building in Iowa City before approximately 15,000 people was “amazing.”
“It probably was the best environment I’ve ever played in, and that includes playing in all the other arenas in the SEC. It was pretty incredible.”
Troup felt fortunate to spend a season with Sophie Cunningham, the Lady Tigers’ All-American senior shooting guard who will graduate as the program’s all-time leading scorer.
“Sophie’s probably one of the humblest people I’ve ever met. A lot of the All-American [players] don’t really interact with their team too much, but we all genuinely love Sophie. She’s really feisty and competitive, which I like, but she’s a lot different when she steps off the court. Any time we needed some leadership or encouragement to help us win, Sophie would do it, along with [senior point guard] Lauren [Aldridge]. It’s been amazing to learn under two great players like that who have been through the SEC grind for four years.”
Troup added that she soaked up all the information she could in practice and in the film room while sitting out her transfer season.
“I was on the scout team, so I played every day against really good players like Sophie and Lauren. It was fun playing defense against them and seeing what they could do.”
Troup pointed out that head coach Robin Pingeton fosters a family environment that promotes unity while at the same time holding team members accountable.
“Coach P. really preaches about creating a positive culture and core values and being a great person off the court. That’s our foundation from how we put ourselves in position to go to battle with each other and win big games. I really love that about our program.”
Troup enjoys living in Columbia, which is located approximately halfway between Kansas City and St. Louis.
“Columbia is actually a really cool little city with some cool little family-owned shops. The athletic facilities are first class and they’ve just renovated our weight room and repainted some of the arena.”
Troup already has targeted two specific areas of her game to work on during the offseason.
“Game-wise, I want to work on my mid-range shot, because people around the country know that I’m a three-point shooter. Mentally, I want to prepare more for the grind of the season, because until you play in the SEC, you don’t realize how much it takes out of you.
“The SEC definitely is the most physical league in the nation. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing the No. 1 team in the conference or the 12th team; it’s always going to be a hard, physical game where anyone can beat anybody. So you have to be on top of your game both mentally and phy-sically.”
As evidenced by being a member of the All-SEC Freshman Academic Honor Roll with a major in sports management and minor in business, Troup has discovered a balance between her athletic and academic responsibilities.
“We have an academic advisor through the athletic department, and all the professors are really great at working with us with making up classes and re-scheduling exams. But it’s still hard with all the make-up work and studying, especially after getting home late at night from a game. But it’s worth it in the end.”
At Gadsden City, Troup was named Class 7A Player of the Year following a senior season that saw her average 19.4 points, 4.0 assists and 7.6 rebounds games while shooting 84 percent from the free throw line. She also made 38 three-point baskets as the Lady Titans went 24-5, finished the regular season as the fifth-ranked team in the state, won the area tournament and qualified for the Northeast Regional Tournament. She finished her high school career with 2,284 points, 1,235 rebounds and 842 assists.
Troup was named to the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s All-State girls basketball first team and was selected as The Messenger’s girls Player of the Year following both her junior and senior seasons.
Troup keeps in touch with former GCHS teammate Brooke Burns, her backcourt partner at GCHS for four years. Burns is a member of the UT-Chattanooga womens basketball team. Burns started at guard for the Lady Mocs, who went 14-17 this past season and made it to the semifinal round of the Southern Conference Tournament.
“We talk pretty often and I try to keep up with her during the season, said Troup. “I’ll try to see her when I come home for the summer.”