It's been one week since Robert Morris announced its seven-man 2014 recruiting class, a time which has allowed people to figure out how so many new pieces will fit into the program both for next season and the ones beyond. A day or two after that announcement, I spoke with Colonials coach Andy Toole about his new group of players and what RMU fans can expect to see from them.
Between high school championships, arena football and a story on athletic cuts (including those at Robert Morris), I didn't really have the time to post this last week, so I apologize for the delay:
Is there one thing that stands out to you the most about this class? Any sort of facet that defines it?
I don't think there's one specific thing that defines it. It's another attempt at us trying to identify things we need to improve on, areas where we need to create depth, opportunities for ourselves to bring in talented players. I think it's a combination of all those things. Obviously, we wanted to bring in size and we did that with three guys who are 6-8 or above. We wanted to bring in some quality guards because those are things we're losing and I think we tried to accomplish that. We hope it will work out that way.
At the end of last year, you all were pretty much down to Stephan Hawkins and Aaron Tate as big men. How important is it that for this class, you were able to get those three guys who can shore up that position?
It's huge. Any time you have any type of weakness at a position or lack of depth or whatever it would be, to go out and try to address that situation in recruiting is what we have to do. You've got to try to be as strong as you can on every position on the floor and you've got to try to have depth at every position on the floor because you never know what's going to happen. You never know how seasons are going to play out and you never know how guys are going to respond. I think you have to provide yourself with as many opportunities to become a good team as you can. You've got to be able to do that, especially when it comes to size, with the importance of rebounding now in college basketball, the schedule that we play, which makes it challenging in the non-conference [schedule] against the teams with the great size that really hurt you on the interior. If we want to compete with some of those teams, we're going to have to be able to put up similar size or maybe not as much size, but effective size.
With him being a local product from a strong program, Elijah Minnie kind of stands out to a whole bunch of people with this class. What kind of an impact do you see him having with this program?
We hope he has a very big impact. His talent, athleticism and basketball instincts are extremely good. He has some talent and some ability that is maybe at a higher level than a Robert Morris or the Northeast Conference has seen. That doesn't guarantee anything. It just gives him the opportunity to have a really good career. If he jumps in, makes all the adjustments necessary, buys into everything we're doing as a team and continues to work, I think he's going to have the opportunity to play for sure. He's going to have, like all freshmen do, some time to adjust to the speed of the game and the intensity of the game. He's capable of making those kind of adjustments and having the kind of impact we believe he's capable of.
Of the six guys who will be able to play immediately next season, is there anyone who you feel can have some sort of immediate impact?
I hope all of them [do]. I think everybody is going to be expected to have some kind of impact and some of it will obviously be more guys maybe on the floor or some guys in whatever role they have. But I don't think you can have the success we want to have as a team unless everyone's embracing their role and trying to excel in their role. We expect everybody to compete for minutes, even for the six guys that are returning who played a major chunk of the minutes as the year went on. Everybody's going to be competing for minutes. Competition is always open. I think all of those new guys will have opportunities to be on the floor, to be able to compete and establish themselves as Division I players. Obviously, Elijah is somebody we think can have a great immediate impact. We're hopeful that our junior college guys -- because of their maturity, because of their experience -- will be able to step in and picks things up very quickly. Then we need Marcquise Reed or Jafar Kinsey, one of those two guys, to really establish themselves really quickly, along with Kavon Stewart, in order to really solidify our point guard position.
With Lionel Gomis and Rodney Pryor coming from the same junior college, was that a situation where you were going after one of them and then the other caught your eye?
It was the situation really where they were both guys that we liked for a while. The recruitment process, because it was based on different individuals, was extremely different. Each guy has a different personality. I think both of them had different things that attracted them to Robert Morris and that attracted us to them. I think both of them have the potential to be really good players for us in different ways. Both of them bring some maturity and our experiences with them so far have all been really positive. They're guys who really understand and appreciate the opportunity they're going to have. We're looking forward to both of them getting on campus shortly.
Were there any particular things you and your staff tried to address with this class? Were there certain areas of need that you honed in on?
Having size was something we tried to address and then being able to try to provide some scoring. We lose 20 points per game from Karvel, so we have to figure out a way to make up for that. I'm not saying any one individual is going to be able to do that, but we might need to find a number of guys that can do that or break that up or share that role.
For a coach, every recruiting class is an important one. But with the 2014 class, just because the sheer number of guys it has, does that make it a little more important and give it that much more of a role in determining the future success of the program?
I think every person and individual you bring into your program is going to have some kind of impact on the future success of your program. Whether you bring in two, whether you bring in four, whether you bring in six, they all can impact your program positively or negatively. That's the hardest thing -- trying to find the right people who will come in and do the things you want them to do and the way you want them to do it and have them do that consistently. That's something that we really spend a lot of time trying to figure out. We're not always 100 percent successful at it because you don't always know how people are going to respond, but we try to do our due diligence and make sure we're bringing the right people into our program that are going to continue to move it in the right direction.