It seems pretty bizarre to think that when people started looking forward to Robert Morris' 2013-14 season, stability was one of the first things that came to mind. After all, the team was losing just two contributing players in Velton Jones and Russell Johnson, and had a strong recruiting class coming in. How things have changed over the last two weeks.
This is one of those moments where sportswriters generally trip over themselves to dub this a 'musical chairs' situation, but I'd probably say it's nothing more than shuffling -- just trying to fit the right pieces in the right places all under the working limits of the NCAA.
Over the last 24 hours, reports have come in that junior college guards DesJuan Newton and Charles Oliver have committed to the Colonials. Since they have yet to sign their National Letters of Intent, Andy Toole cannot comment on the situation. As new players have been added, it was first reported to the Post-Gazette today that forward Keith Armstrong will transfer.
Newton, who was on campus the day of the press conference announcing Toole's contract extension, just finished up his sophomore season at Central Arizona College, where he averaged 17.4 points per game while shooting 50.6 percent from the field and 32.4 percent from 3-point range. At 6-2 and 185 pounds, he's been described to me as a tough, defensively-savvy player, both of which were qualities that impressed the coaches and players when he participated in workouts on his visit. Think of him as being in a Velton Jones sort of mold, though I've never seen him play in person, so I don't want to throw that kind of a direct comparison out.
A highlight video of his sophomore season, complete with some Meek Mill in the background, can be found here
Oliver, who spent his freshman season at Rider, averaged 19.3 points per game and made 44.9 percent of his 3-pointers for Lakeland Community College in Ohio en route to being named an NJCAA first team all-American. As his shooting numbers indicate, the 6-3 guard is a pretty natural replacement for Coron Williams.
Since both players are coming from the junior college ranks, they are eligible to suit up next year and will likely be counted on to produce. While it might be a tad unrealistic to expect them to match what Karvel Anderson, another JuCo transfer, did last season, junior college players are generally more apt to contribute right away than their freshmen counterparts.
With all of these additions, the reality of another Robert Morris player transferring out became increasingly likely, with that player turning out to be Armstrong. The news isn't entirely surprising, as things weren't really able to click for Armstrong after he missed much of the early part of the season with an injury. He only played about nine mintues per game, averaging less than one point per game to go along with 1.3 rebounds per game. If one thing ever really stood out to me, it was that his touch around the basket never really seemed to develop coming off that injury, something which is pretty important if you're a big man.
So where does this story move forward from here? For those of you keeping score at home, Robert Morris is slated to have 14 scholarship players next season (seven returning players, four freshmen and three JuCo players), one more than the NCAA limit of 13.
The most solution that has been bandied around the most is for one of the four freshmen to spend a year in prep school, which is what will almost certainly happen. It's not likely that either of the school's three-star recruits (guard Kavon Stewart and forward Jeremiah Worthem) will be the one to do so, largely because of their sheer talent. Based on conversations I've had, it looks like that player will ultimately be forward Emmanuel Omogbo from Princeton Day Academy in Maryland.
The signing deadline is just a few weeks away, so this is still a fluid situation, with just one major decision looming regarding the freshmen. But, rest assured, it's a much more manageable dilemma right now than it was even 24 hours ago.