Troy sophomore guard Andrew Lake controls the ball against Birmingham Groves Jan. 31 at Troy High School.

Troy sophomore guard Andrew Lake controls the ball against Birmingham Groves Jan. 31 at Troy High School.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Troy basketball’s search for league title aided by strong senior class

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Troy Times | Published February 21, 2023

 Troy sophomore guard Mason Parker drives to the paint for the tough layup.

Troy sophomore guard Mason Parker drives to the paint for the tough layup.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Troy senior guard Carter Cusmano controls the ball.

Troy senior guard Carter Cusmano controls the ball.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


TROY — Troy boys basketball has been through their fair share of trials and tribulations their past two seasons, sporting a 19-18 record over a two-year span.

It was a far cry from their 16-5 record in the 2019-2020 season, but last year’s run to the district finals, with an eventual loss to would-be Division I State Champion Warren De La Salle Collegiate, provided excitement for what Troy could look like coming into the year.

Behind a core of seven seniors and returning starters, the expectations were at an all-time high, and the 2023 senior class has answered the call.

“Having last year’s experience in a similar role has definitely helped me motivate the guys, and as a point guard, coach always tells me to control the pace, be the vocal leader and be someone the younger guys can look up to,” senior captain Carter Cusmano said.

Alongside Cusmano are seniors Nathan Lobo, Zach Penoza, Bryce Parker, Darius Whiteside, Sarang Bhide and Nate Liberty.

The added expectation with returning veterans only added fuel to the fire for Troy, but also elevated the team’s mindset.

Troy coach Gary Fralick, who is in his 29th season at Troy, said the seniors’ impact this year has been unmeasurable.

“It’s so important to have senior leadership — seniors that care and seniors that know this is their last year to play high school basketball,” Fralick said. “They come out every day, and it’s like they have an appreciation to play and really be a mentor to the younger players. It’s just the joy they have to compete.”

The joy and appreciation has translated to not only a 14-4 record this year, but a spot in first place in the Oakland Activities Association-White division.

Opening the season on a five-game win streak, Troy’s offensive unit found their rhythm early, and there was no secret as to why.

During the summer, Troy was able to work as a cohesive unit through basketball camps, including one at Oakland University.

Averaging 60 points per game during their five-game win streak, Cusmano said the team knew how to work as a unit.

“When our first game rolled around, we already knew what our identity was and how we wanted to play,” Cusmano said.

Cusmano has been efficient at the point guard position this year, bringing his floor general style of play and leadership to the first unit.

Fralick said Cusmano has excelled this season in his role as the primary facilitator.

“We couldn’t be doing this without him,” Fralick said. “He’s so good at finding the right player at the right time.”

Penoza has provided a strong backcourt alongside Cusmano, while junior Chase Kuiper and Whiteside have manned the frontcourt for Troy.

In the young talent department, sophomore guard Mason Parker has provided a reliable scoring boost alongside sophomore guard Andrew Lake, who has been efficient off the bench this season for Troy.

Parker, the younger brother of Troy graduate and Oakland University sophomore guard Brody Parker, has been a dynamic offensive threat this season, but it’s no surprise to any of his teammates.

“We knew last year that he was a good player, but sometimes as a freshman you need to get acclimated to playing against younger guys,” Cusmano said. “Once he figured that out, we knew Mason would step up and be our go-to guy.”

Bryce Parker has been a key veteran leader for Troy’s second unit this season as well as junior guard Jon Whiteside.

Whiteside, the younger brother of Darius Whiteside, has assumed his older brother’s role in the paint after Darius Whiteside was sidelined due to injury the last five games. Fralick said he hopes Whiteside is back for the beginning of districts.

Cusmano said one of the team’s biggest strengths this season has been stepped up when needed.

“Whether you’re the best player, the second player, or off the bench, everyone plays a role on the team,” Cusmano said. “If the second group embraces their role, it makes the team better.”

With three games left this season, and all league opponents, Troy is currently tied for first in the OAA-White with West Bloomfield.

Troy will finish their season on March 2 in a potential league-deciding game against West Bloomfield, but until then, it’s just continuing the success they’ve built through the entirety of this season.

“They certainly have reached those goals of just always being ready to play, and play as hard as they can,” Fralick said. “We don’t really have any goals, but we’d obviously like to compete for a league championship, district championship, and regional championship, and just keep on playing well.”

Troy is 1-2 this season against their final three league opponents, holding losses against Birmingham Groves and West Bloomfield, and their lone win against Lake Orion.