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Re-examining preseason predictions for RMU

Written by Craig Meyer on .

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Instead of doing a dry, standard and broad preview heading into the 2013-14 season, I opted to examine each Robert Morris player through a best-case and worst-case scenario. Simply, I wanted to look at the components of the team through two different lenses -- one being an ideal, if-everything-works-out-perfectly view and the other being a sort of Murphy's Law, everything-that-can-go-wrong-will way.

With the season having been over for about a month, I figured now would be a reasonable time to look back on those and see where each player ended up falling. At the end, I'll assign a grade based on how they performed relative to those expectations. If they exceeded the best-case scenario, they get an A. If they met it or come close to it, it falls in the B range. If they were somewhere in the middle, it's a C. If it's at the worst case or close to it, it's a D. If they somehow did worse than that, it's an F. And, given everything that happened this season, if they didn't really display enough to warrant a grade, it's an incomplete.

Naturally, the grading process is as arbitrary as it is for a college liberal arts professor, but such is the nature of the beast.

NOTE: I did not do entries on walk-ons Evan Grey and Shaire Tolson-Ford. Both were suspended for one year by the university back in January.

 

THE RETURNERS

 

G Karvel Anderson

What I said back in November:

Best case scenario: Anderson’s offensive rating last season put him among the top 100 players in Division I last season and it was the highest rating of an RMU player in the KenPom era (since 2003) that used 20 percent or more of the team’s possessions. That sort of efficient play continues and even with more shots and more attention from opposing defenses, he continues to shoot a similar percentage from three-point range. Not only does he stay healthy all year, but he leads the Colonials in scoring, makes first team all-NEC and is a strong contender for player of the year.

Worst case scenario: With Coron Williams, Russell Johnson and Velton Jones gone – all players that shot at least 34 percent from 3-point range – defenders can key in on Anderson, meaning he doesn’t get quite the same looks he did last year. He’ll still get his share of 3s, but he won’t shoot as well with more pressure and he’ll see his scoring take a dip. Also, coming off offseason surgery, his wrist will bother him and cause him to miss some time on the court.

What ended up happening: Reading back on that best-case prediction, it really seems like I sold him short, especially if we're working in an unrealistic realm where pretty much anything can happen. He improved in virtually every statistical category possible -- even in areas of strength like 3-point shooting -- while putting up unreal efficiency numbers and, most importantly, being a go-to scorer who could be counted on to push the team to a win when needed. Not only was he a strong contender for the NEC player of the year award, but he won it with little debate or protest. Anderson was named an honorable mention AP all-American and was as strong a representative of the program as one could probably ask for. I'd say that more than covers the best-case scenario. Grade: A

F Lucky Jones

What I said back in November:

Best case scenario: If there’s a potential star on this team, it’s Jones. His numbers improved substantially from his freshman to sophomore year and now with Velton Jones gone, there’s a reasonable assumption that he will emerge as the team’s primary offensive threat. Not only will he be the team’s leading rebounder again (helping limit the burden off an already-thin front court), but he’ll also be the leading scorer as both a competent penetrator and a continued threat from 3-point range. Ideally, he’s a matchup nightmare who can stretch the court and create opportunities for his teammates. He’ll do just that in 2013-14 as he wins NEC player of the year.

Worst case scenario: As talented as Jones is, he has a tendency for some mental lapses in games and in practice (anyone that’s watched Andy Toole during an RMU practice can attest to the latter). Players come with different characteristics and not everyone has laser-like focus, but for someone with his sort of skill level, there will need to be some assertiveness if he hopes to make another jump from his sophomore to junior season. If that doesn’t happen, expect his stats to be down, leaving the Colonials partially devoid of their most dangerous offensive weapon. Also, he’ll clothesline 10 more players, get banned by the NCAA and embark on a pro wrestling career.

What ended up happening: I may have jumped the gun a year early on the Lucky-Jones-is-going-to-be-an-unquestioned-star thing. Jones was undoubtedly an excellent player this season, an extremely good No. 2 option, but he was just that -- a very strong player who wasn't quite the star that Karvel Anderson was. And that's no knock on Jones at all. What Anderson managed to accomplish this season was probably the best statistical season in Robert Morris' modern history and just because Jones wasn't able to stack up to a whimsical preseason projection doesn't mean he had a bad season. In fact, it was the opposite. While some of his offensive numbers went down -- field goal percentage, 3-point percentage -- perhaps nobody was more integral to the Colonials' undermanned success than Jones, particularly on the defensive end, where he often had to defend positions 1-5. This wasn't Jones' season to be a star, but after his performance in 2013-14, he's set himself in a position to be just that for Robert Morris in 2014-15. And, yes, I feel a little cheated that he didn't lay anyone out on an attempted layup this season. Grade: A-/B+

F Mike McFadden

What I said back in November:

Best case scenario: The early reports on McFadden were that he looked much improved from last season and the exhibition game against California confirmed as much. That will carry over into the regular season as McFadden, no longer hampered by tendinitis in his knees, displays greater speed and athleticism. In turn, that gives RMU a consistent offensive presence on the low post, something that they, at least now, don’t obviously have. Healthy at last, he also improves drastically on his low rebounding numbers from last season. A spot on the all-conference team becomes a very real possibility.

Worst case scenario: Pretty much the opposite of the previous paragraph. After an offseason of rest and rehabilitation, the lingering injuries and pain begin to resurface, limiting his game and stripping him of the sort of leaping ability necessary to get points and grab rebounds down low. Without an effective McFadden, the RMU frontcourt, as a whole, is a liability throughout the season as the team becomes more one-dimensional than it was last year.

What ended up happening: This one definitely sided more toward the worst case. If it were just about his game, he would have been somewhere in the middle between the two scenarios, probably more toward the worst. His scoring numbers were the lowest in his Robert Morris career, his rebounding figures didn't improve much and he wasn't much of a noticeable presence on the low post. Of course, his on-court performance wasn't everything. McFadden missed the final 18 games of the season in what amounted to him leaving the team. The reasons for the move aren't entirely clear -- I've heard different things from different people -- but the nagging injuries seemed to at least play some part in it. Grade: Incomplete

 

G Anthony Myers-Pate

What I said back in November:

Best case scenario: With just one year of eligibility left, I’m not exactly going out on a limb saying that Myers-Pate will never be the same kind of scoring threat his predecessor, Velton Jones, was. With that being said, I see some similarities between the two and much of that will translate to the court this season. Myers-Pate will be an active offensive presence, routinely setting his teammates up for easy baskets while limiting his mistakes. An even 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio is possible. He also improves his 25.4 percent clip from 3-point range last year, giving the team yet another outside threat.

Worst case scenario: For all the similarities he shares with Jones, there’s one clear difference between the two – Myers-Pate is not nearly as outgoing as Jones and at a position that requires constant communication, that could be a potential problem. He is not able to adjust to the role of being the team’s primary offensive catalyst and in the process, his turnover numbers increase. As he continues to struggle shooting from deep, he gradually loses minutes, and eventually his starting spot, to freshman Kavon Stewart.

What ended up happening: Like Anderson, I may have sold Myers-Pate short a bit when it comes to a best-case-scenario. Many of the things that I listed in that paragraph ended up coming true. He improved his 3-point shooting by six percent, he actually had better than a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio (it was 2.18:1) and he was a a consistently reliable offensive presence for much of the season, one that routinely put his teammates in a position to excel. But it wasn't like that for the entire season. Myers-Pate was never a backup in the traditional sense of the word, but he took some time to adjust to his new role on the team as the go-to-guy at the point guard spot. That adjustment was reflected in some underwhelming offensive stats early in the season. That far from tells the full story for Myers-Pate, as he basically fulfilled his best-case scenario, but they were part of that story nonetheless. Grade: B

 

G David Appolon

What I said back in November:

Best case scenario: Unlike others, I’m bullish on Appolon. He’s got a unique skill set that could ideally make him a poor man’s Lucky Jones by the end of the year. He’ll start to demonstrate that this season, first by showing effectiveness in limited minutes and later becoming an important piece in the team’s rotation. His poor shooting numbers from last season (32.5 percent on FGs, 22.9 percent on 3s) improve as he gives the team yet another matchup nightmare, along with Jones and Desjuan Newton, who can stretch the floor.

Worst case scenario: In simplistic terms, a continuation of what we saw last season. He shows no clear signs of improvement as a junior (a pivotal time for player growth), still looks lost at times on the court and eventually gets leapfrogged by newcomers like Newton, Charles Oliver and Britton Lee in the team’s rotation.

What ended up happening: Few people embodied the "excel when given the opportunity" mantra that helped define the Crazy Eight more than Appolon. I had always really liked his game, but there was little to back it up beyond a few anecdotal examples. He didn't get many minutes and in that limited time, he didn't really show anything that would possibly earn him a greater role on the team. Early in the season, that trend looked like it would continue, but when the team went down to eight players, the junior wing reinvented himself as a player and helped rejuvenate his career. A poor-man's Lucky Jones in some ways, Appolon was a versatile threat who could play a number of positions and come up with big plays in big moments. He's still not much of an outside threat (15.4 percent on 3s), but there's a fun stat that tells a lot about his development and greater role this season. In his first two years at Robert Morris, Appolon had 109 points total; this season, he scored 146. Grade: B+

 

C Stephan Hawkins

What I said in November:

Best case scenario: Hawkins is kind of the great “What if?” on the RMU team and this year, that potential-laden question gets answered pretty convincingly. The opportunity for increased minutes is there and the sophomore takes full advantage, showing an improved offensive game and remaining the team’s lone shot-blocking force. His length makes him, at worst, a great shot-altering presence and he manages to stay out of foul trouble while becoming the team’s leading rebounder. He starts to crack the starting lineup by season’s end and ends up averaging about 20 minutes per game.

Worst case scenario: When CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein visited RMU’s practice last week, Hawkins was one of the players that stood out to him, as he said the big man has “A-10 athleticism” is a “player to keep an eye on.” While Rothstein’s unflinching optimism admittedly can make him an easy punchline sometimes, he’s right on this – everything is there for Hawkins, but will he put it together? In this case, he doesn’t. Like he was in the exhibition, he looks lost on the court at times, continues to not pick up some of the game’s subtle nuances and get in foul trouble so early that he’s never able to get much time on the court. A lack of progress leaves the team relying heavily on its remaining bigs – McFadden, Jeremiah Worthem and Aaron Tate.

What ended up happening: I didn't outline much with Hawkins as far as production, but all in all, he performed pretty well. The minutes were there (he averaged just shy of 20 per game at 19.6) and for the most part, he took advantage of those minutes. His scoring numbers reflected that increase in playing time -- from 2.5 ppg in 11.5 mpg to 4.6 ppg in 19.6 mpg -- but his rebounding didn't improve all that much (from 2.2 to 2.9). In fact, when looking at offensive and defensive rebounding percentage, his numbers actually got worse. He's developed a very reliable mid-range jump shot that he uses effectively (and often), but he still needs to develop more of a back-to-the-basket game, something coaches will repeatedly tell you. It was a good-but-not-great season from the sophomore, but there were signs of improvement and at this point, that's probably the most important thing. Grade: C+

 

THE JUCO TRANSFERS


G Desjuan Newton

What I said back in November:

Best case scenario: Junior college guys can be a mixed bag – sometimes they’re underappreciated assets, other times they were playing at that level for a reason – but a few guarantees come with Newton. Mainly, he’s athletic as all hell, evidenced by some of the dunks he’s pulled off both in the Greentree summer league and in practice. He uses that to full advantage, becoming a dynamic offensive threat who can penetrate and create his own shot, something last year’s team was largely missing. Also, regardless of how he does, Newton will be the most entertaining player on the team.

Worst case scenario: The transition to the D-I game can be tricky for some JuCo guys – for every Karvel Anderson, there are countless others that didn’t make it – and Newton shows that. His athleticism is still there, but he’s erratic and turns the ball over often. He never really finds his shot, making him somewhat of an offensive liability and in what should be a crowded backcourt, he sees his minutes diminish.

What ended up happening: When he was playing, Newton was pretty much an embodiment of the worst-case scenario or in the ballpark of earning a D in this exercise. It wasn't that he was bad, but he simply didn't do enough on the court to justify getting significant playing time. After playing a decent amount in the Colonials' first nine games, Newton saw his minutes decrease drastically and soon enough, he temporarily left the team, an absence that ended up becoming permanent as he would not play the rest of the season. He has since been granted his release from the program. Grade: Incomplete

F Aaron Tate

What I said back in November:

Best case scenario: I promise I’m not trying to make too much out of a meaningless game, but Tate started the exhibition last week for a reason. Early on, he’s proven something to coaches and he shows that once the season begins, instantly becoming a reliable force on the low block by collecting rebounds for a team that will need them. By the time conference play starts, he solidifies his status as the starting power forward, which is really the only position still in question at this point.

Worst case scenario: Tate’s on the smaller end for a power forward – standing 6-foot-5 – and it shows as he’s not able to carve out the necessary space against taller players with Division I experience. It has probably become pretty obvious at this point, but with only four traditional big men (for, theoretically, two spots), the Colonials will need contributions from almost all of them or they will have to go extended stretches of the game playing small. Thus, if Tate doesn’t produce, that aspect of the team’s game will suffer.

What ended up happening: Tate wasn't much of an offensive threat and with the way his game is, it likely won't ever be that way. But the beauty of it is that he doesn't have to be. He began the year as a starter, eventually lost the spot to Jeremiah Worthem and once Worthem was suspended, he reassumed that role. Tate's something of a junkyard dog, the kind of player who doesn't do anything flashy or noticeable, but he fulfills a necessary and important niche -- the rebounder and essential glue guy. Tate's 4.4 rebounds per game were second on the team and he was the only RMU player to rank in the top 400 players nationally in offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. Grade: B-

G Charles Oliver

What I said back in November:

Best case scenario: The addition of Oliver came with pretty clear intentions. With Coron Williams off to Wake Forest, the team needed a traditional shooting guard who could replace Williams’ production from beyond the arc. He shot 44.9 percent from 3-point range in junior college and that figure is able to translate to Robert Morris, where he is able to get enough open looks. The team doesn’t miss a beat with the loss of Williams and, best of yet, Oliver has two years of eligibility remaining (unlike Williams, who would have been a senior).

Worst case scenario: Conventional wisdom (and Norman Dale) would tell you that the dimensions of a basketball court are the same at all college levels and, thus, a shooter’s effectiveness should remain the same. But, for whatever reason, that doesn’t prove to be the case with Oliver, as his shot falls flat. On average, he misses more than one out of every 3s he attempts, taking away the biggest strength of his game and planting him behind the likes of Newton, Stewart and Lee.

What ended up happening: Oliver's the only guy on the Robert Morris team that has ever interviewed me for a paper for a communications class, so I'm predisposed to like him. Like a lot of players on the team, he fell somewhere between the best and worst-case scenarios. He averaged just about 15 minutes per game, so it wasn't like he was a major piece to the team, but he was productive in those minutes, averaging 6.3 points per game. Largely a 3-point specialist (106 of his 188 field goal attempts came from beyond the arc), Oliver shot well at the beginning of the season, but tailed off as it went on, missing 25 of his final 29 3-point attempts. While he wasn't anything outstanding, Oliver did what he needed to do and should only improve next season as a potential starter. Grade: B-

 

THE FRESHMEN

F Jeremiah Worthem

Best case scenario: Worthem is being talked about like a potential NEC rookie of the year and there’s plenty of reason for that. He would fit almost seamlessly into the vacant power forward position and with a relative lack of numbers down low, the opportunity for big minutes is there. Anyone that saw games at Greentree this summer knows just how good he can be. Albeit as a freshman, he makes good on that, averaging double figures in points, becomes the team’s leading rebounder and shows an above-average outside shot that will draw larger players out to the perimeter and open things up down low.

Worst case scenario: It’s dicey to do this kind of exercise with freshmen. Odds are, they aren’t going to emerge as a star immediately, especially on a team with a pretty established starting lineup, and if they don’t do well or don’t play much, it’s largely because they’re freshmen. There’s a grace period to learn the game and get acclimated to it; sometimes, that takes a full season. But if Worthem doesn’t become a consistent contributor down low, it will be a disappointment and something that could hinder the team’s overall balance and depth.

What ended up happening: Well, a lot happened. For the time that he did play, Worthem looked liked a walking iteration of what many ideally projected him to be. He was a bruising inside presence who had the ability to stretch the floor and get looks from the outside. Averaging about eight points and four rebounds per game, he won NEC rookie of the week numerous times and figured to be a strong contender for the conference's rookie of the year award. Of course, that's not how everything ultimately played out. Along with three teammates, Worthem was suspended in January for a non-criminal violation of university policy, the kind of offense that carries a mandatory one-year suspension from the university. It's unclear whether Worthem will ever return to the program -- of the four, he has the best shot to, but I still don't think it's all that likely -- and based on some of the glimpses he was able to show as a freshman, that's too bad for the Colonials. Grade: Incomplete.

 

G Kavon Stewart

What I said back in November:

Best case scenario: I’ve got a theory that everything a left-handed basketball player does looks smoother. I have no clue why this is, but that’s just always how it looks. Maybe that’s what’s at play with Stewart, but from what I’ve seen of him, there’s just a smooth, calm demeanor to Stewart’s game, something you don’t often see from a freshman. He will begin the year as the backup point guard and will gradually see his minutes increase as he creates plays and, most importantly for a young player, doesn’t turn the ball over. By the end of conference play, he’ll be starting, which won’t be a product of poor play from Myers-Pate – rather, it will just be impossible to keep him off the court. Averaging double figures in points and about 3.5 assists per game, he wins the NEC rookie of the year.

Worst case scenario: Stewart has a problem common to many freshman point guards – turning the ball over – that limits his playing time and forces RMU to shuffle other players like Lee and Newton into the backup point guard role.

What ended up happening: Stewart was as electric of a playmaker as there was on the Colonials last season and that was just in his first season of college basketball. At pretty much any moment, especially in NEC play, he's the fastest player on the court and can get to the basket with relative ease. His assist rate of 25.7 (187th among DI players) is more than a little promising. But there are also some downsides that sometimes limited that playmaking ability. He didn't shoot the ball particularly well this season, making only 40.6 percent of his attempted field goals, including a horrid 41.4 percent clip on 2-pointers. Theoretically, that should improve with time, as should his average of two turnovers per game. There's a lot to be learned after a freshman season and if Stewart does, he could become something truly special. Grade: B

 

G Britton Lee

What I said back in November:

Best case scenario: For whatever reason, Lee seems to be the freshman who gets overlooked, despite shooting 53.7 percent for a Philadelphia high school that went 26-3 last year. Though it’s hard to imagine that kind of a mark translating to the college level for a freshman guard, Lee shoots well enough to become a fixture in the RMU rotation at the 2 spot and even gets some time at point guard, where he also excels. He won’t start by the end of the year, but he’ll be averaging around 15 minutes per game.

Worst case scenario: Again, the worst case for a freshman is usually a shortage of playing time and a lack of anything eye-popping in limited minutes. That will be the case with Lee as he struggles to get on the floor in what will be a pretty crowded backcourt.

What ended up happening: Even prior to his suspension, Lee was averaging just 3.3 points per game and interestingly enough, he never actually scored a point in his Robert Morris career, assuming that he won't be coming back even when the ban is done. Lee was on the trajectory of the worst-case scenario and that was before he was suspended along with three other teammates. Grade: Incomplete

 

Craig Meyer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG

 

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Report: Andy Toole to interview at Marshall

Written by Craig Meyer on .

It wouldn't be a Robert Morris basketball offseason if coaching speculation wasn't involved.

Colonials coach Andy Toole is expected to interview for the vacant men's basketball head coaching position at Marshall University, a source told the Charleston Daily Mail.

This time of year is always filled with people trying to pimp Toole out to most any vacant job, but this is a legitimate report for something substantive -- an actual interview for a position that would make some kind of sense.

According to figures from the Office of Postsecondary Education, Marshall spent $2.37 million on men's basketball during the 2012-13 season, ranking it 137th among Division I teams and ninth among programs in the 16-team Conference-USA. For the sake of comparison, Robert Morris spent $1.34 million on men's basketball, good for 253rd in Division I.

Tom Herrion, who was recently fired as the Thundering Herd's coach, was making about $400,000 per year, which, according to tax documents, is more than double what Toole was making in 2011. Since that time, he's gotten a raise and an extension, but the fact still remains that this job would be a bump in pay at a school that spends more money on men's basketball.

With all that in mind, would this be the right conference for Toole? Andrew Chiappazzi over at Colonials Corner breaks it down some in this thread and I agree with him on some points. This isn't the Conference-USA of 10 years ago, when Louisville, Cincinnati, Marquette and Memphis would regularly help the league send multiple teams to the NCAA tournament. It could very well be a one-bid league for the future, but I think the potential at least exists for there to be multiple teams selected from the conference in a given year.

At the very least, there's more of a financial commitment to basketball than there is in the NEC, largely because these are bigger schools with more resources, even if the prestige factor of the Big East or Atlantic 10 isn't there. Ten of C-USA's 16 teams are among the top 150 in basketball expenses in 2012-13; the NEC, meanwhile, had no teams in the top 150 in spending and just one in the top 200 (LIU Brooklyn).

It's maybe not the job many people envisioned Toole being tied to, but there is reportedly mutual interest and, to me at least, it appears like a step up for him on the proverbial coaching ladder.

The situation is certainly worth monitoring and I'll provide any updates as they become available.

UPDATE [4/17]: When reached last night, Toole said he had no comment no the report or a potential interview.

 

Craig Meyer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG

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Andy Toole discusses the 2013-14 season, RMU's future

Written by Craig Meyer on .

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As a way to informally wrap things up for the 2013-14 season, I sat down this week with Robert Morris coach Andy Toole to have a conversation about last season and a little bit about the program's immediate future.

It's something of an exit interview, with one eye on the past and one looking forward.

Below is a full transcript of our talk.

When you all went down to eight guys in January, did you honestly envision the team doing as well as it did? "I hope we would have. I thought that along the way there might be a few more losses just because situationally, with eight guys, whether it's foul trouble or whatever it might be in the course of a game, I just thought those things would happen on a couple other occasions. And they didn't. In some of the situations where we did find ourselves down, we were able to make great comebacks and win. I think it's a testament to the guys that were in the locker room and the way that they stepped up and played together."

From that experience, was there anything you learned about those guys, about that team or even about the game itself, just being able to do that well with so few players? "You're constantly learning as a coach. I think one of the things you learn is making sure you have the right guys in the locker room, making sure you have the right guys that are buying in and the power of team a little bit. Some of our guys -- and we talked about it during the course of the year -- maybe weren't playing consistent minutes prior to going down to eight guys really stepped up and played their roles like we needed them to, and how important it is making sure everyone's doing what's necessary for the team versus maybe what's best for them.

"I think you saw some guys who started to be much more effective as players once they started to buy in to the role that the program envisions for them and maybe not the role they envision for themselves. That way, they had more individual success as well as team success."

Were there any guys in particular who stood out to you, ones that grew a whole lot as players due to that situation? "Everybody stood out to me, but Stephan Hawkins, David Appolon -- those were two guys that statistically made significant jumps, had a lot of big plays and contributed a lot. Aaron Tate was a guy who really solidified a lot of what we did and maybe his stuff didn't show up as much statistically, but the ability to rely on him during that stretch of the season was really important to our success. Those are three guys who I think really made great jumps.

"Chuck, all year long, had made some shots and been involved. Kavon, all year long, you had seen his talent. But I think those three guys really went from not sure what we would get or how much they'd contribute previously in their careers to being really important pieces of the team that helped us win a lot of games."

Do you feel like the whole storyline and narrative built around the Crazy Eight ever got overblown? "That was the guys' thing. I don't think it got overplayed. From an outside perspective some people might say 'You only need five guys on the court and you've got eight, so what's the big deal?' But when you're on the inside from a program perspective, when you've coached teams before and you...number one, have that kind of turmoil during a season that can be extremely disruptive and number two, just the daily management of your program is completely different than it was previously, in terms of practice, conserving energy and everything that you do. To continue to remain effective and have success even after you're not getting the reps you need in practice every day, figuring out different and more creative ways to utilize your time versus being on the court and running people down.

"You can't overstate the fact of what these individuals did to remain focused and to put themselves in a position to continually win. That's something that I take in terms of how good those guys were to work with and how flexible they were in the different situations we found ourselves in. And that's outside of games. Whether it's getting an extra scouting report in or being more creative in a walk-through in a hotel versus going and having shootaround...it's easy when you have 12 guys and everyone gets to rest in practice and everyone gets plenty of reps and when they need to take rest, they do that. When you're down to eight guys and you're trying to go as hard as you can playing against an assistant coach, knowing you don't have a sub during the course of practice, knowing you can't take a practice off because there aren't enough dudes to get by, those are some of the things people don't understand on the outside which make it so difficult to have the success when you have limited numbers. They all did great, great jobs with all of it."

With having the success you all have had the last two seasons and not being able to make the NCAA tournament, does that get frustrating at all or is that something you feel gets overplayed? "It gets completely frustrating, there's no doubt. It gets frustrating for the guys who are on your team, who put in all that effort, time and work. You want them to be rewarded by going to the NCAA tournament, you want to help them achieve a goal of theirs. It's part of your job as a coach. It is frustrating, it is difficult when you consistently are in a position to do that or you put yourself in a good position to do that, but it doesn't happen for you or happen for the program.

"It is frustrating, but everyone gets judged on their success in March and the tournament and all that kind of stuff. If you ask coaches around the country, there are a lot of other things they evaluate themselves on, but it's also what it is in our industry that being a part of the NCAA tournament and having success there, if that's what your expectations are, that's what you get evaluated on. It's the way of the world, I guess."

It's obviously not Kentucky, but by going on the road and being able to beat a top seed in the NIT for the second year in a row, is that another positive step for the program? "I think any time you have sustained success, that's a positive for your program. Obviously, after last year's win against Kentucky, that was huge, as we've talked about many times. But then to be able to go on the road and win a game in the fashion that we did, it also really speaks to what kind of program we have and what kind of kids we have in the locker room. They faced probably their biggest adversity or disappointment of the season by losing in the championship game and were still able to get themselves back together to go on the road and beat a St. John's team convincingly. With nine minutes to go in the game, we were up 26 points. It didn't obviously get as much play as the Kentucky stuff, I think because of the game being at our place and the name Kentucky, but it was in many ways, a better performance than the Kentucky game with the way the guys played together, some of the plays we made, the way we shot the ball, the way we executed.

"I think from a coaching standpoint, the fact you can go back and replicate some of that success is what you want to see in your program. You want guys who are constantly trying to push forward and raise the bar a little bit. I'm really proud of the way they were able to bounce back and compete in that game."

As far as Karvel and his professional future, have you talked to him much about it and how do you project it to possibly be? "We've talked about it a bunch since and we've had some meetings and we've met with some people that are interested in representing him. I think it's something he can make a career out of. It's a situation where I think he'll have the opportunity to be on a team and be paid next year. I don't know if that will be here domestically. I think his opportunities might be more overseas, but depending on how he plays and continues to improve his game, I would never put it past him for doing it for a number of years or maybe even coming back here [to the United States] and finding a niche, finding a spot where he can find success here in the states.

"We've talked about that and I think he's in agreement where he would obviously love to be an NBA player -- I think every college player would love to be an NBA player -- but he also understands that he wants to play the game as long as someone will let him play. If he can make some money doing it, that's great. But I do think he has a bright future as a professional, wherever that might be."

When you have a guy like Karvel who can do something like 3-point shooting that well, that's something that can allow someone to have a long pro career, right? "His ability to shoot and score and be a shot-maker is something that is rare. If you look around the country, there are very few guys that made more 3s than him or made a higher percentage. He's top 10 in the country in both. His ability to shoot off the dribble -- one-dribble pull-ups, different things like that -- and his ability to make guarded shots is something that's extremely valuable. At the end of the day, it's how well you can put the ball in the basket and his ability to do it at such an efficient rate is something that makes him unique. If you look at professional basketball, they're always looking for players like that.

"The feedback we've gotten from people we've talked to at the professional level have all said the same thing -- his ability to shoot and score is something that's going to be a commodity. That sets him up, as long as he goes and does the right things and continues to work, to have the opportunity to have a really good career."

I don't want to use the term 'rebuilding,' but for next season with just six guys coming back, is it going to be something of a bridge year with a lot of new guys trying to find their roles? "We brought six guys back into this year's class and we were able to win 22 games and a regular season championship. I think the expectations will be the same, that those six guys who come back will be expected to continue to play the way they have, if not make a bigger jump, and then the pieces we bring in are going to be expected to help us continue to have success. That's the plan and that's what we'll start working toward as soon as we have spring workouts going, weights going and then when guys get here for summer school. That will be the expectation that we demand. That'll be how we work to prepare for next year.

"There are more significant returners in terms of playing time over the last 18 games of this year than there were the previous year when we lost Velton, Russell and Coron Williams and we eventually lost Mike McFadden. Those were four starters we basically didn't have for all of conference play. Obviously Karvel was our leading scorer, but he was off the bench. Lucky was a starter and had a very, very good year and continued to have a good year. But Dave didn't play as a sophomore, Hawk was a role guy and really that was pretty much it. Part of this job is to figure out how to work with what you have and figure out how to make them successful. I think our staff did a good job of doing that during the course of this year. As we recruit kids, we want to be able to identify kids that are going to be able to come in and contribute to us winning. Obviously it happens a lot, but when most kids look at a school, they don't anticipate on coming into a rebuilding situation. They want to be part of a winning situation. That's how we'll coach them, that's how we'll prepare them and that's how we'll challenge them getting ready for next year."

When it comes to filling out those open scholarships for next season, are you planning more on targeting junior college guys, freshmen? Is there a particular kind of focus here for you in the offseason? "Everything. Best players we can find, whether they're junior college guys, high school guys, fifth-year transfers, four-year transfers, who knows? I think you'd be foolish not to explore every option and possibility. You'd like to create balance on your roster if you can, but I'd rather have good players instead of balance. We're trying to identify the best players and make them part of the program.

Do you expect to have Jeremiah Worthem and Britton Lee back for next season? "I'm not sure yet."

Is that something you'd get to in January when the suspension runs out? "Some of that stuff's outside my control anyway. You'd have to go meet with other people on campus to have that conversation."

[NOTE: Toole said Worthem and Lee's scholarships do not count toward the team's limit for next season.]

Is there anyone for next season who you're maybe looking to take a big step and play that much greater of a role for this team? "Obviously, Kavon is one of those guys. He's a guy who's going to have a lot more on his plate next year. He showed glimpses of being able to handle that and there were times when he looked like a freshman. I think Kavon's somebody that can be more consistent next year for us to be successful. He's going to have a lot on his shoulders and a lot of responsibility. The way he handles that responsibility is going to really dictate how good of a team we can become."

 

Craig Meyer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG

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Robert Morris lands JuCo commit

Written by Craig Meyer on .

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(Photo: Albany Times Union)

Robert Morris has received a commitment from former Siena and current Cloud City Community College (Kansas) forward Lionel Gomis, according to Andrew Chiappazzi of Rivals.com.

A native of Dakar, Senegal, Gomis' backstory is a unique one, partially because of a little-heard-of NCAA policy that put his long-term eligibility into question. When he arrived in the United States, Gomis was fluent in French, but knew little English, something which caused him to reclassify from a junior to a sophomore. After signing with Siena, he was informed by the NCAA that he effectively had to sit out his freshman season, play as a sophomore, but beyond that, he could no longer play. The rule that prompted that decision states that an athlete must complete their high school core-curriculum requirements no later than the high school graduation date in a five-year period. Basically, the time that he missed not going to school in Senegal were counted against him once he entered college (his final two years) and he would have had to sit out the first year because of his reclassification. In all, it was a pretty bizarre situation.

Siena was able to successfully petition the NCAA's ruling and Gomis was on the team for two seasons. In December of 2012, his sophomore year, he opted to transfer, citing family reasons. He appeared in just one game that season, playing two minutes in the Saints' season-opening loss to Vermont.

At 6-foot-9 and 215 pounds, it would appear that Gomis could help bolster a Colonials frontcourt that looks pretty thin entering next season. Robert Morris returns six scholarship players from last season and has signed two incoming freshmen, guard Jafar Kinsey and forward Andre Frederick. With forward Jeremiah Worthem and guard Britton Lee suspended until January -- and both of their scholarship statuses up in the air -- Gomis will give the Colonials nine scholarship players (not including Worthem and Lee).

 

Craig Meyer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG

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