By Chris McCarthy/Editor
Haley Troup and Brooke Burns have been friends since kindergarten and played varsity basketball together since their freshman season, so it was only fitting that Gadsden City High School’s “Dynamic Duo” signed college basketball scholarships at the same time.
On Nov. 16 at the GCHS library, Troup signed with the University of South Carolina and Burns inked with Tennessee-Chattanooga.
“Haley and Brooke are two very well-rounded individuals,” said GCHS girls head basketball coach Jeremy Brooks. “They making coaching very easy because not only do they have God-given talent, they have the best work ethic that I’ve probably ever coached. Off the floor, you don’t have any worries about them academically or anything else, and they’re a positive influence on the other members of the team.
“The complete package is what makes them so unique. These two made my job a whole lot easier over the last several years, and whatever team that they were going to go to, they were going to make that program better.”
Troup was a first-team Class 7A All-State selection last season after averaging 17.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists while shooting 80 percent at the foul line in 27 games. She also was among three finalists for the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s Class 7A Girls Player of the Year award and was selected as co-Player of the Year for the 2015-16 All-Messenger girls basketball team. She scored her 2,000th career point during the 2015-16 season. She is only the second GCHS girls basketball player to sign with an SEC school.
“It’s a really special day for me and Brooke, and I’m super proud of what she’s accomplished and I know that she’s proud for me,” said Troup. “Since I first started playing, one of my mains goals was to play Division I basketball at a high level, and that’s what I’m getting to do. With the program that I’m going to, I’ll have to set new goals in order to succeed, and I’m excited for the new challenge and the new environment.
“I’m going to have to work hard every day and do extra stuff, but I’ve done that my whole career, so I’m used to that.”
Troup wished to thanks her grandparents – Mitchel and Kay Troup and Charles and the late Shirley Copeland – for their support.
Troup joins a USC team that went 33-2 in 2015-16 while winning the SEC Tournament title and making it to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament. South Carolina is coached by three-time Olympic medalist Dawn Staley.
Burns led the 2015-16 Lady Titans in scoring with 20.1 points per game while averaging 5.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists and shooting 84 percent (109-for-130) from the free throw line. She and Troup helped the Lady Titans finish with a 16-9 record. Burns scored her 1,000th point last season.
“Me and Haley getting to do this [signing] together is really humbling, and it just makes me realized how blessed I am,” said Burns, who plans on studying education with the goal of being a teacher and a coach. “Chattanooga has a really good winning program and a really good coach, plus I love [Chattanooga] as a city.”
UTC last season went 24-8, won the Southern Conference Tournament title and qualified for NCAA Tournament.
Troup was named to the ASWA All-State first team last season, while Burns made the third team. Both girls participated in the North/South All-Star girls basketball this past July in Montgomery.
With so much experience playing in the same backcourt, Troup and Burns often rely on instant and non-verbal communication.
“Playing together for so long, we just know where each other will be [on the court] at certain times during a game,” said Burns. “You’ll see when you watch us play that Haley might have the ball at the top of the key and she’ll know when I’m about to cut and she’ll pass it ahead of me.”
“If you’ve watched us enough, some of the plays aren’t necessarily drawn up; it’s them playing basketball,” added Brooks. “They’re probably as good as a combo that I’ve had because of their skill and they know each other so well. In high school basketball, if you have good solid guard play with girls who can both handle the basketball and score, that really puts you in a good situation as a team.”
Brooks also noted that Burns and Troup emerged as leaders this season.
“Both girls have quiet personalities off the floor, and we talked with them about needing to be a vocal leader as well as by example, and they’ve really stepped into that role. They do little things on their own to bring the team together, and that’s the sign of a good leader.”
Both girls were adamant that the Lady Titans’ 2016-17 season would not end in the area tournament semifinals like last year.
“Definitely not,” said Burns. “In the beginning of the season we took the rest of the team into the locker room and showed then a Power Point [presentation] about what goals we should set and how we can achieve them. Hopefully, we’ll get there.”
“I really feel that we’re going to make a run in the playoffs, and ultimately our goal is to win a state championship,” said Troup. “I’m glad that the [recruiting process] is over with, because know can focus on my team and what we want to accomplish.”