Last week, I touched on what Robert Morris was losing with the impending graduations of Velton Jones and Russell Johnson. But what exactly is the team bringing back?
In short, quite a bit. The Colonials will return three starters (and a sixth man in Karvel Anderson), all of whom were valuable contributors, and a few key pieces off the bench. There's also a talented recruiting class that is thought to be among the best in the program's history. And, after some overtures from other schools, RMU has managed to bring back its coach, something which can't be overstated enough.
There will be time to look at the recruiting class -- likely once it becomes official -- so we'll turn our attention to the guys from last year's team that will be back in 2013-14. For the sake of a shorter post, and my head not exploding, I'm going to divide these up into different groups for a more in-depth look at exactly what the players will provide.
We'll get things started with what I like to think of as the team's two primary outside shooting threats -- guards Karvel Anderson and Coron Williams. They were one and two, respectively, in made 3-pointers and 3-point attempts and together, they accounted for 52 percent of the team's made 3-pointers (156 out of 300). Granted, I was a journalism and history major that hasn't taken a math class since my junior year of high school, but that's a pretty sizable chunk from just two players.
I was considering putting Lucky Jones in this category, as he was third on the team in made threes, but it was a distant third (he made 44) and he has such a different skill set that it would be misleading to group him in with Anderson and Williams.
As I noted in an article during the NEC tournament (actually right before the loss to Mount St. Mary's. There's no jinx quite like a sports writer), Robert Morris had quite a few guys who could fill it up from deep. In addition to Anderson and Williams, there was Lucky and Velton Jones, as well as Russell Johnson.
What separated Anderson and Williams, though, was the proportionally high number of their shots that came from beyond the arc. About 62 percent (187 of 301) of Anderson's field goal attempts were threes, while 69 percent of Williams' shots fell into the same category.
At the risk of stating the super obvious, there's a reason that both players have made the 3-point shot such a central component of their game -- they're really good at making them, as each of them made over 40 percent of their 3-point attempts. They have smooth strokes and you get the feeling, especially with Anderson, that if a defensive player gives them even a few feet of space, they're going to knock down the shot.
But how will this change going into next year?
While guys can mysteriously go through dry spells, players largely don't lose a 3-point touch. If you've got it, you've got it (and can also work to gain it if you don't). What can differ, though, will be the kind of looks they will get.
Much of this hinges on point guard play and who is faciltating these guys, so obviously a lot of this will depend upon how this team responds to the loss of Velton Jones. These ballhandlers are often the ones that orchestrate these offenses and make sure they can draw enough defenders away from the perimeter so that the team's best shooters can get open looks. Even for the best of shooters, mild pressure or just a hand in the face can throw things off a bit. Looking back on last season, a fair number of looks that these guys got were pretty open, so there are definitely some factors at play here.
It's probably helpful to take a look at how these guys got their looks from last season, so let's take an individual look.
(The following two images are from RMU Athletics)
The percentages of who assisted on the shots are based off Anderson's 82 made threes last season, which led the team.
|Number of 3s||Percentage of 3s|
The 'other' number stands out, but that figure takes into consideration a whole lot of people. David Appolon had his fair share of assists in limited time. Mike McFadden would find ways to kick it out, though his number of assists to these two is considerably lower than others. Anderson and Williams even helped each other out a lot on assists. Nothing spells a threat quite like having two open and dangerous 3-point shooters near the same spot on the arc.
It should be noted that a decent amount of assists (I'd guess in the ballpark of about 7-8 percent) came from Russell Johnson. For a big man, he was a very good passer and since he was a threat both from the outside and on the low post, he would routinely command attention, which would sometimes free up Anderson or Williams enough for an open shot.
The percentages of who assisted on the shots are based on Williams' 74 made threes last season.
|Number of 3s||Percentage of 3s|
A few quick thoughts from these figures:
*** It's kind of bizarre how both players got basically the same percentage of their threes from Velton Jones. Probably just a coincidence, but a little weird nonetheless.
*** Williams got almost double the number of unassisted 3-pointers that Anderson did. Some of these can come on fast break opportunities, but I'd argue that Williams is a slightly better ballhandler and is more apt at creating his own shot.
*** If I were a Robert Morris fan, I'd be a little discouraged by what I see from Myers-Pate, but not too much. He only averaged two fewer minutes per game than Velton Jones, but his assist totals in this pool of data (and overall) are much lower. Nobody's going to argue that he is the same sort of playmaker as Jones, but in some of those instances, he was playing more of a combo guard role, usually when he was on the floor with Jones at the same time. He can certainly make plays when he needs to.
The numbers confirm what I thought going into this: Velton Jones was a big part of this team's offense and his ability to excel at the point helped Anderson and Williams as 3-point shooters. It's a problem that the Colonials have an entire offseason to figure out and plan for, and they have the pieces to do it. Myers-Pate has another year to improve and two of the team's incoming freshmen are guards (with Kavon Stewart possibly getting some big minutes). Also, these are two shooters that are not terribly dependent on being wide open to make their shots. All they need is a little space.
Next season, there's great potential for Robert Morris to succeed, but it cannot happen without Anderson and Williams knocking down threes with some regularity. I'm not sure there's a magic number for it (maybe 40 percent or more?), but its pretty important.
Variables remain even beyond what the team loses -- like how Anderson progresses after undergoing wrist surgery soon -- all of which will play a part in both their performance and the team's performance in a season with reasonably high expectations.