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Demetrius Troy relishes the challenge ahead for defending SoCon champions UNC Greensboro

Demetrius Troy will be one of the centerpieces of UNCG’s hopes of defending their SoCon title in 2018-19

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-UNCG vs Gonzaga Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

If UNCG wants to repeat as Southern Conference champions in 2018-19, it will be with the help of a warrior named Troy.

When Demetrius Troy came to UNCG three years ago, Wes Miller was just starting to build the Spartans into the SoCon power they have become. Troy has gone from a wide-eyed freshman who gave the Spartans a lift off the bench as a ball-handler and shooter to the main point guard for the Spartans heading into his senior season.

Troy was a highly touted recruit when he came to UNCG, ranked as the third-best high school guard in all of North Carolina. Now, as a senior, the kid out of the prestigious Word of God Christian program has lived up to his billing.

At UNCG, Troy has had a knack for making the big shot at the right time, diving to get a loose ball at a key point in the game, and making the key pass leading to a key basket in crunch time. That’s nothing new for him.

“I think playing behind some of the guys I have had the opportunity to play behind and what I was able to learn and the experiences I have been through kind of build you for those type of big moments,” he said. “I played behind Josh Newkirk...and then when I came to college I was behind Diante Baldwin, who taught me so much in my freshman and sophomore year.”

As a junior last season, Troy distributed the ball extremely well, and will enter his final season as the eighth-leading assist man in program history.

Troy added 7.7 points per game and 2.3 rebounds per game. His 53 three-pointers were third on the team, and his 38.7 percent shooting clip from long range ranked 12th overall in the SoCon.

Troy seemingly made big shot after big shot for the Spartans against the same three opponents in the conference tournament in Asheville it had faced a year earlier.

He posted double-figure scoring performances in all three of UNCG’s tournament games in Asheville last season, posting 14 points, four boards and three assists in the 72-58 win over The Citadel Bulldogs in the SoCon quarterfinals.

In the narrow, 56-55, semifinal win over Wofford, Troy posted 13 points, four rebounds, and had a pair of assists. Then, in the 62-47 win over East Tennessee State in the SoCon championship game, Troy added 14 points and four rebounds. The Spartans went on to lose a heartbreaking, 68-64, game to Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament. The Spartans were oh so close to getting the SoCon’s first tournament win since Steph Curry and Davidson accomplished their Elite Eight run in 2008.

“We went into the tournament the year before having played those exact same teams, so it was the exact same road back to the championship, so we this year we were a little bit more prepared to take on that challenge and that’s what drove us to be as prepared as we were.“

In the regular-season, the Spartans were officially in a title chase following a 74-56 win over the Bucs in Greensboro on Feb. 12, putting an end to what had been a program-best tying 17-straight wins for the Bucs. In that game, Troy had played one of his best games of the 2017-18 season, posting a season-high 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field, including a perfect 4-for-4 from three-point range. The Spartans had lost an early conference game, 68-58, to the Bucs in Johnson City.

“Since I’ve been at UNCG, we’ve always been a team that liked to learn from our losses and learn from our mistakes and try to immediately respond. I think when you take a loss or you take a hit it’s all about getting back up and it’s all about how you respond to that specific situation. I think we did a nice job of that after each of our regular-season losses last season. UNCG has always done a good job as a program responding to those losses, and having chance to get back at the team that beat us, or take it out on the next opponent.”

“That ETSU loss hurt us one because we lost because no one in our program likes to lose and I think that’s what makes us so great, but also because we’ve had a lot of close battles with ETSU, so it’s a lot of bad blood between us. The fact that they came out with a win early in conference play was a little more personal for us compared to other opponents in the SoCon, and that loss to them kind of gave us a chance to step back and say ‘you know we might not be as good as we thought we were’ and showed us what we needed to work on.”

One of the games that will always serve as a special memory for Troy was a certain trip to North Carolina State last season. The Spartans were able to emerge with an 81-76 win over the Wolfpack in Raleigh, which happens to be Troy’s hometown.

“It was really cool for me and coming from Raleigh, I actually grew up an N.C. State fan and I had always wanted to go there and I had been around the city for so long and kinda being able to get that good feeling after not really being recruited by them and everything to show you know we’re just as good if not better.“

Growing up on Tobacco Road, there have been plenty of stars for up-and-coming players to try and emulate or model their skills after. Troy had one in particular that his father urged him to look to.

“Well growing up, my father grew me up on watching Jason Williams (Duke) film a lot and I watched a lot of his games as well as Deron WIlliams (former Illinois guard) when he was in Utah (Jazz) and I actually really liked watching them growing up.

It’s now Troy’s turn to write the final chapter of his own story, and perhaps add a new one to UNCG’s basketball tradition.