In an offseason in which Robert Morris' roster has resembled a game of musical chairs, forward Lijah Thompson has left the program, coach Andy Toole confirmed last night.
Thompson will transfer to Lincoln University, a Division II school in his native Philadelphia, where he will attempt to finish out the remainder of his college career.
Andrew Chiappazzi over at Colonials Corner was the first one to report the move.
After missing all of the 2012-13 season recovering from a torn ACL, Thompson was expected to be a fairly large part of the Colonials frontcourt this season. In his last full season of action, he averaged 7.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game in 2011-12.
With the season about two months away, Thompson's decision is an equally surprising and sudden one. Toole said the move has been about a month in the making, spurred by a visit Thompson made back home over the summer.
Thompson's departure depletes what already looked to be a pretty thin frontcourt. As I detailed in late June, he was the most efficient rebounder of any of the returning big men, although he was coming back from a major knee injury, so it's difficult to know if he would return to that same kind of productivity.
The loss of Thompson means a few things. One is that, like the backcourt, the Colonials' success this season will depend a lot upon how the team's newcomers (freshmen and transfers) perform. Jeremiah Worthem is not a traditional low post player (he's more of an inside-outside guy, kind of in the mold of Russell Johnson), but he will be getting some more minutes now. Junior-college transfer Aaron Tate is a little undersized at 6-5, but early reports indicate that he's an excellent rebounder. There is not a dearth of options, but rather, they're just unknown commodities.
Since Thompson was widely-expected to be the team's starting center, questions surrounding the team's lineup naturally arise. As far as I see it, there are a couple of routes Toole can go.
One's a more traditional decision -- simply plugging Stephan Hawkins into the spot vacated by Thompson. The 6-9 Hawkins showed some flashes of potential last season and given his height, he can at the very least alter the shot of any opposing player that drives the lane. Toole also noted that Hawkins has bulked up a lot in the offseason, adding the kind of muscle and girth needed to be physically-viable down low over the course of a season.
The other option is to go with a smaller lineup, inserting Worthem, who was impressive all summer in the Greentree Pro-Am League, at the power forward position and having Mike McFadden play the pseudo-center spot he did last season. These projections are coming under the assumption that the other three starters will be Ant Myers-Pate, Karvel Anderson and Lucky Jones.
There will be more time, particularly in the weeks leading up to the season, to break this move down a little bit more. But, for now, Thompson's move makes an uncertain roster in an uncertain league even more...well, uncertain.