College basketball - Trojans' new hoops home: Troy opens season in new arena tonight against Mississippi State
TROY, Nov 09, 2012 (Montgomery Advertiser - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Justin Wright gawked from one end of the arena to the other, carefully avoiding his Troy basketball teammates and coach Don Maestri.
They were all doing the same.
From one corner to the next, from the rafters to the bowels, from the pristine practice court to the luxury suites, from the locker room to midcourt, the Trojans are still overwhelmed by their new home.
"That thing is incredible," Wright said. "I look in that place, and it is unreal."
Troy, after a soft-opening exhibition Monday, officially unveils its $40 million, 5,200-seat Trojan Arena at 7 tonight against Mississippi State.
Fans will find padded chairback seats, at least everyone but the students. They'll all see a video board high behind each goal with a ribbon board tracing the rafters all the way around.
There's Troy's athletic hall of fame and an interactive display, a rotunda entrance area, displays about all of Troy's sports and windows where they can look down on the practice courts.
"I feel like I have a new job, really," said Maestri, who's entering his 31st season at the school. "Even practicing in the place, it's so different, and we've been practicing without the video boards.
"When you throw on the video boards, it's a totally different atmosphere for even practice."
Away from public eyes are swank locker rooms for both the men's and women's teams, complete with Xbox and PlayStations, a video room and plush offices.
It's a stark contrast to the dank Sartain Hall used from November 1962 until Saturday when the volleyball team ended its season.
"The whole arena is state-of-the-art, probably the best facility I've been to in college," senior guard Emil Jones said. "It's a total turnaround, a 100 percent turnaround from what we had."
Troy basketball began practice at Sartain because the new Trojan Arena wasn't yet ready. When the building could handle it, the Trojans were still waiting on new goals.
The teams hatched a quick-move solution: take Sartain's goals to the new digs. The new goals have since arrived.
"I always tell people, last year we were practicing at 6 o'clock in the morning, and Sartain has a smell to it at 6 a.m.," Wright said. "It ruined me. I can't stand Sartain any more.
"Getting out of that place is the best thing that ever happened to me."
The Trojans soon turned duplicitous in an effort to make arena history, though they're not sure -- or won't admit -- who actually made the first basket.
Tonight's first will officially be the one.
"We were ready as quick as the goals went up," Jones said. "We were sneaking in here when the paint was still wet on the floor to get that first shot up.
"I'm not sure who it was, but it wasn't me and I was upset. I had class or something."
The Trojans also hope its home success made the four-block trek from Sartain. Troy men's basketball was 468-181 over 50 years at Sartain.
Troy is 0-0 at the new place.
"I don't think they forgot anything in there," Wright said. "It definitely motivates you, that's for sure, having a place that nice."
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