Troutman caps hoop career in fine style

By Jamie Combs
SPORTS EDITOR
jcombs@starhq.com

   According to the movie character Forrest Gump, his momma always said that life is like a box of chocolates -- you never know what you're gonna get.
   More than just a few basketball players probably wished they could have said the same about Cyndie Troutman, because those who played against Troutman knew they were getting a more than worthy challenge.
   A ball of competitive fire who combined impressive skills with physical toughness, Troutman saw her outstanding playing career come to an end earlier this month. It was a career she capped with a two-year stint at NCAA Division 1 Coastal Carolina University.

   "I'm already missing it," said Troutman, who is scheduled to graduate from the Conway, S.C., school in December with a major in marketing and a minor in management. "I know I'm going to miss it pretty bad. I've always had that competitive spirit, so I'll need something to take it up. I'll probably take up golf or something. I'll try to work hard on a good (working) career, try to get it going."
   Troutman's final game occurred in Coastal's 55-49 Big South Conference tournament semifinal loss to Birmingham-Southern on March 11, but she didn't go out with a whimper, totaling 15 points, seven rebounds, four steals, three assists and two blocked shots.
   It was that level of all-around play that made Troutman, the lone NCAA D-1 women's player to come out of Hampton High School, with whom she scored 1,749 points and appeared in two state tourneys, one of the Big South's upper-echelon players during the 2003-04 campaign.
   "It seems like this year I was more comfortable -- I guess with it being my senior season and stepping up in a leadership role," said Troutman, who came to Coastal after turning in a pair of sparkling seasons at Walters State Community College. "I was more of an offensive player, I guess."
   The 5-8 power forward -- yes, 5-8 power forward -- started all 28 Lady Chanticleer games in '03-04, ranking first on the team and fifth in the conference in field goal percentage (48), first on the team and ninth in the conference in blocked shots (averaging 0.8 per game), second on the team and third in the conference in steals (2.5 pg), and second on the team and 11th in the conference in scoring (10.4 ppg).
   Furthermore, she tied as the Lady Chants' second best rebounder with a 4.8 average, which was also good enough to tie her at No. 15 in the league rankings.
   Her senior scoring average almost four points higher than what she put forth as a junior (6.7), Troutman really picked up her point production on Jan. 3 of this year, when she tallied a then career-high 17 points in an 83-80 Coastal win at Appalachian State.
   "There was something about that game," said Troutman, 6 of 8 from the field vs. Appy. "It's like everything came together. The way the team played, we started doing more things. Early in the season we were doing things a little bit differently -- we were subbing a lot more.
   "Right after Christmas we started playing good teams, and I felt more comfortable playing against them."
   Although Troutman had 15 double-digit scoring efforts as a senior, only one of those came before the Appy contest -- Coastal's 10th game of the season.
   Troutman followed up the Appy game with the highest scoring output and perhaps finest performance of her Lady Chant career. Hitting 10 of 13 attempts from the field, she tallied 23 points while adding seven boards, two blocked shots and a career-high seven steals in a 75-58 CCU home victory over Coker.
   The fact she was getting the job done at power forward, where she always faced a taller player, is a story that beckons to be told.
   An accomplished guard when she joined the Lady Chant program, Troutman remained in a backcourt role -- coming off the bench -- until teammate and starter Courtney Brown was injured about midway through Cyndie's junior campaign.
   Taking over Brown's position, at power forward, Troutman received her first taste of life in the paint, and started the final 16 games of the season. In those 16 games, she mustered five of the six double-digit scoring outputs she had as a junior, and twice grabbed at least 11 rebounds.
   Getting physically stronger as she went along, Troutman finished the '02-03 campaign with a 4.9 rebounding average (third highest on team, 15th in the Big South) and a 1.6 average in steals (third on team, tied for 13th in the Big South).
   "It helped me a lot," Troutman said of the move to the inside. "I was always more of an aggressive player in high school, but I was able to do it on the wing. In college, the wings are just a little bit faster. Once they taught me all the post moves, it started coming to me."
   Ultimately, Troutman's low-post work made a good impression on CCU coach Alan LeForce. On the day of the semifinal loss to Birmingham-Southern, LeForce's following remarks about the player appeared in The Sun News in Myrtle Beach, S.C.: "Pound for pound, inch for inch, she is as tough as they make. Her size would indicate that she's a wing player. But her toughness, her strength around the basket makes her an excellent rebounder."
   How on earth, though, does a 5-8 player lead her team in blocked shots?
   "I don't know how to explain that one," Troutman said. "I just got my timing down and blocked them, and sometimes I would help the other post players and come over and get blocks there. That was kind of a big thing this year."
   Her shot-blocking ability undoubtedly hit its highest note when she rejected Liberty's 6-8 Katie Feenstra twice in the same game this past season.
   "Those two I remember the most," Troutman said. "It's normal for a 6-8 player to block a 5-8 player, but it's not normal for a 5-8 player to block a 6-8 player. That was at home too, so it kind of got the crowd going. It felt good to block her because she was always trying to block us."
   Asked to name the top highlight from her time in a Lady Chant uniform, Troutman had to think for a moment. She had quite a bit to choose from, including the East Tennessee State game, in which she amassed 15 points, five rebounds and three steals in a 72-62 Lady Chant home victory, her junior year.
   After Troutman considered the ETSU affair, she narrowed things down by saying: "The biggest highlights were just going to play at schools such as North Carolina, Clemson and Cincinnati -- getting the opportunity to play those caliber of programs, those kinds of schools."
   Not many players wouldn't be thrilled with playing on the floors of the more prestigious NCAA D-1 programs, and from those experiences emerged Troutman's No. 1 highlight -- a 10-point, 5-steal performance at North Carolina near the end of the '02-03 season.
   "That's definitely my biggest highlight," she said. "I always liked North Carolina growing up. You know you're never going to get that opportunity again, and you just go out and play as hard as you can."