Photo: 2017 Gadsden City High graduate Haley Troup played a program-record 145th career game for the University of Missouri women’s basketball program. (Courtesy of University of Missouri Athletics)
By Chris Kwiecinski/Columbia Daily Tribune
As Haley Troup sat down in the Mizzou Arena media room on February 26, her face still red from the emotion of facing her final home game as a Universiy of Missouri Tiger, she struggled to keep the tears from coming.
Troup shared a tender moment with her dad Kevin after the Tigers’ 61-52 loss to Florida, a tangible moment that signaled that her six seasons at MU are coming to an end. The 2017 Gadsden City High School graduate was honored prior to the Florida game as the program’s lone departing senior. Troup will leave with a program record that might be unbreakable in this era of college athletics, as she played a program-record 145th career game against the Gators, a stretch that goes back to her redshirt freshman season five years ago.
“This is such a special community and a special team and program, and I’m just so thankful to have had the opportunity to represent this university for the past six years,” Troup said. “If I say too much now, I might start crying.”
In 13 seasons in Columbia, Missouri women’s basketball coach Robin Pingeton has overseen four NCAA Tournament appearances, perhaps the best player in school history in Sophie Cunningham and the switch from the Big 12 to the SEC. Troup is the latest of Pingeton’s players to leave an indelible mark on the program, one that will remain in the record books for quite some time.
Across those 145 games and counting, Troup has been exactly what Missouri needed her to be. Whether it is a scoring, defense or rebounding, Troup has been the player Pingeton has been able to call upon at any moment.
“Haley’s never wavered,” Pingeton said. “She’s always been a person of high character and high integrity that really poured into her teammates. More than she realizes, that locker room has so much respect and admiration for her.”
Troup arrived at Missouri from the University of South Carolina before the 2017-18 season and played her first full season in 2018-2019. She made the cross-SEC move after Nikki McCray-Penson, a then-assistant coach for the Gamecocks, was named head coach at Old Dominion.
In an interview with the Charleston Post and Courier in 2017, Troup said it was not fair to stay in Columbia when her heart was not in it.
“South Carolina is a great program with a great staff, but my heart just wasn’t in it anymore,” Troup said. “I didn’t think it was fair to them to stay when I wasn’t feeling very good about it.”
Troup transferred to Columbia shortly after. Her original recruitment came down to Missouri and USC. Since that move in 2017, Troup has been a consistent member of the Tiger rotation since then and became a full-time starter prior to the 2020-2021 season.
Pingeton noted how hard it was for Troup to leave her family in Gadsden, Alabama, but she spent each of her 145 games giving the Tigers everything she could.
In that time, Troup has become an irreplaceable teammate.
“That’s my best friend right there,” Hayley Frank said. “Through my four years here, Haley’s always been someone I can count on and lean on. I just know she’s going to give everything she has every day.”
Troup has done nearly everything across her five years. While she isn’t scoring as much as she did in the 2021-2022 season, she has recorded more steals and rebounds this season than in her past four years and has her best free throw percentage from the line in her career. Troup recorded a career-high 24 points against Arkansas this year and scored seven points and grabbed eight rebounds against Florida.
In this era of college basketball, six years of loyalty may seem like an eternity. To Pingeton, it meant the world.
“I don’t know if I can even articulate how special that is and how much it means to me,” Pingeton said. “We always say iron sharpens iron, and Haley’s definitely sharpened me. It’s just been a blessing to be able to coach her and be around her for this long.”
There might not be another player in the near future for Missouri like Troup, a player Pingeton previously called the “backbone” of her roster. Missouri has fielded stars like Cunningham, Aijha Blackwell and Hayley Frank. Players such as Troup provide the support those players need to take over a game. That support has seen MU claim NCAA Tournament victories, upset wins over No. 1 South Carolina and 77 wins over Troup’s career.
“Haley’s been a part of some really special wins, and she’s been a part of some really tough losses and tough sea-sons,” Pingeton said.
A four-year starter for Gadsden City, Troup finished her high school career with 2,284 points, 1,235 rebounds and 842 assists. As a senior, Troup helped the 2016-17 Lady Titans go 24-5, finish the regular season as the fifth-ranked team in Class 7A, win the area tournament and qualify for the Northeast Regional Tournament. She averaged 19.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 28 games while shooting 84 percent from the free throw line.
Following her senior season, Troup was named the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s Class 7A Player of the Year and was selected to the ASWA Super 5 team, which consists of the top five players in the state regardless of classification. She was The All-Messenger girls basketball team Player of the Year for both her junior and senior seasons.
Gadsden City girls basketball coach Jeremy Brooks is not at all surprised at Troup’s success at the highest level of women’s college basketball considering her superior work ethic.
“Haley’s one of those players who truly loves the game,” he said. “It’s one thing to say that you’re going to achieve certain goals within a certain time frame, and it’s another thing to put the work in to do it, especially for such a long period of time. Anyone who gets a college basketball scholarship is obviously a good player, but when you’re talking about the SEC, that’s big time.”
Other than Troup’s natural talent, Brooks pointed to her versatility and mental toughness as key factors in holding her own on in arguably the country’s toughest conference.
“Haley’s always been an all-round player. We obviously needed her to score, but one of things she got recruited on early in the process was how well she passed the ball. She had a lot of qualities that sometimes were overlooked by non-coaches, things that didn’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet. You’ve got a lot of players who are physically capable of doing those things, but they don’t want to. Whatever it took to win games, Haley was willing to do.”
Troup is also at the top of her game in the classroom as a Sport Management major, earning All-SEC Academic Honor Roll every year since arriving on campus.
Troup’s final season is not over. She can still help lift the Tigers in the SEC Tournament, where MU can put on a show that leads to higher seeding in what will most likely be the WNIT.
Troup will play her 146th and 147th career games in the SEC Tournament and in a postseason tournament. At the very least, that will move her into a tie for 92nd all-time in the NCAA women’s basketball record books in career games played. Troup is currently tied for 132nd all-time, matching the likes of former Baylor star Odyssey Sims and former Notre Dame star Natalie Achonwa, who would go on to play in the WNBA.
Troup has a few more opportunities to prolong her season, and her teammates will do everything they can to make sure that happens.
“Haley’s definitely just a special one that I’ve been truly blessed to play with,” Frank said. “I’m excited for March, and we’re going to try and get something done for her.”
The Messenger Publisher/Managing Editor Chris McCarthy contributed to this article.