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2013-14 season preview: The players and the possibilities

Written by Craig Meyer on .

 

Toole practice

The wait has been a long and, for Colonials fans, arduous one, but after over a seven-month delay dating back to its loss to Providence in the NIT, Robert Morris will be taking the basketball court tomorrow in a game that actually counts.

Yesterday, a more team-centric look was published on the blog (and in the paper), one that looked at pressing questions/topics that the team will need to answer if it hopes to excel this season.

Today, that look will shift to the individuals that make up the collective unit. Most anyone reading this knows about these guys and their defining characteristics as players. But even with that knowledge, nobody, perhaps even the coaches, has a complete idea of how they will perform. With such a long season ahead, it’s impossible to predict injuries, unforeseen lapses in effort or skill, etc.

What I’ll attempt to do here is take a look at each player in rather simplistic terms – a best case and a worst case scenario. Obviously, these will be kept within reason. Even if Lucky Jones, for example, averages 25 points and 15 rebounds per game, he’s probably not winning national player of the year while leading Robert Morris to the Final Four. On the other end of the spectrum, he’s not going to spontaneously combust before tip-off of the Savannah State game Saturday.

As is often the case, the truth will probably lie somewhere in the middle, but what direction each player leans toward could tell a lot about how this team will do.

THE RETURNERS

G Karvel Anderson

Notable 2012-13 stats: 12.7 ppg, 44.1 3-pt. %, 119.3 offensive rating, 26.8 % of RMU’s shots

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.

F Lucky Jones

Notable 2012-13 stats: 11.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 43 3-pt %, 117.4 offensive rating, 62.1 true shooting percentage

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.

F Mike McFadden

Notable 2012-13 stats: 8.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 55.8 FG %, 10.6 def. rebounding %

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.

G Anthony Myers-Pate

Notable 2012-13 stats: 6 ppg, 2.7 apg, 1.74:1 assist:TO ratio, 23.4 assist rate

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.

G David Appolon

Notable 2012-13 stats: 2.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 1 tpg, 26.1 turnover rate

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.

C Stephan Hawkins

Notable 2012-13 stats: 2.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 0.7 bpg, 7.4 block percentage

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.

 

THE JUCO TRANSFERS

G Desjuan Newton

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.

F Aaron Tate

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.

G Charles Oliver

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.

 

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.

G Kavon Stewart

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.

G Britton Lee

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.

 

THE WALK-ON

G Evan Grey

Best case scenario: After getting a bucket or two in garbage minutes at the end of some early games, Toole puts him in during a closely-contested contest. He continues to score, earning a spot in the rotation and playing a much larger role on the team than anyone previously thought. Instant fan favorite.

Worst case scenario: He gets in late during several blowout games, but has an Anthony Bennett-like 0-for-12 mark from the field entering the final month of the season. In a postgame press conference, irked by some leading questions and grumbling from fans earlier in the game, he snaps, angrily repeating several times that “Treadwell Lewis isn't walking through that door.”

 

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

 

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