Holgorsen presser transcript: Day 1

Written by Stephen J. Nesbitt on .

West Virginia opened fall camp today in Morgantown. Here's the transcript from coach Dana Holgorsen's press conference, as transcribed by the WVU athletic department.

Opening statement:

We had a good first day. Everybody in the country has a good first day, I promise you that. The guys were pretty fired up about being out there. We had good energy and got done what we wanted to get accomplished. It’s non-padded, non-contact, but I thought it went well. A couple of deals here – I know you guys were going to ask. There are three guys who are not here – actually five guys who are not here – three guys who are on the physically unable to perform list. They are here, but they can’t participate. (Wide receiver) Jackie Marcellus had knee surgery, so he is out until January. (Offensive Lineman) Amani Brown is still recovering from knee surgery. He will more than likely be practicing the first day of school. (Offensive Lineman) Russell Haughton-James is not able to go right now. He will probably be back the first day of school. We are still waiting on (Offensive Lineman) Dontae Angus and (Wide Receiver) Jacob McCrary for eligibility situations. Injuries: (Linebacker) KJ Dillon is out probably for about a week or so. He’s got a twisted ankle. It happened on his break, when he was gone for five days, but we will be good to go in about a week. (Linebacker) Brandon Golson is recovering from that shoulder surgery. He looks good out there. He will just have to be non-contact for a while. (Linebacker) Jared Barber is still in red and probably don’t anticipate him to be able to go for probably about another month. Other than that, everybody looks good. I thought we’ve had a great summer. I thought Strength Coach Mike Joseph and the strength staff have done a great job getting these guys ready to play. I sense that our bodies look different than they have since I’ve been here. We have a lot of numbers, and we have a lot of healthy bodies. That makes it fun and exciting as we continue to move forward with camp.

On Offensive Lineman Walter Rauterkus

He decided not to play football. He was here during the summer and decided this wasn’t for him. He went home, and he is no longer on the team.

On Defensive Back Jaylon Myers

Still waiting. I don’t want to really comment on it. But we’re still waiting.

On if an emphasize was placed on bulking up physically in the offseason

No. I think strength coach Mike Joseph’s plan of attack this season was very similar to last season. I think our attitude, our mentality – it means a lot to us. The commitment level from our guys I thought was as high as it’s been since I’ve been here for sure.

On what Safety Dravon Henry has done to prove his value

We worked with him all summer. We weren’t able to work with a specific ball, but we were able to sit in here and meet with them. We were able to go outside and be a part of the conditioning stuff, which could be part of conditioning or changing-direction type stuff. We were able to do some specific technique-type stuff with them. It just seems like it’s easier to go out there day one because of the stuff we were able to do with them all summer. We’re not the only ones – that’s everyone in the country obviously. Especially with these young guys, it’s not just brand new to them. Even take a guy like Quarterback William Crest, as well. We been able to coach them in our offseason for the last two months. The things we’ve been saying to them today – he’s already heard it for two months. It definitely gets them ahead, and it gives us an evaluation of these guys. That hasn’t existed in the past.

On Henry’s abilities that have impressed the staff

He’s big and fast and has a good mentality. He picks things up pretty quickly. He’s ahead of the curve for a true freshman, that’s for sure.

On Defensive Lineman Shaquille Riddick and Offensive Lineman Stone Underwood

We lined up Riddick as a third-team defensive end. Stone Underwood is our next offensive linemen in the game. He’s the next guy in. He plays center, and he plays guard. There are unknowns because we were not able to work with Shaq throughout the summer, because he just graduated. Today was the first time that we looked at him in person. He was running third team.

On Running Back Wendell Smallwood

Wendell Smallwood is where he was at the end of camp. He had a great summer. Obviously, he was not with us for about a 10-day period. He is an integral part of what we’re going to be doing offensively. It’s hard to put these running backs on an actual depth chart right now, because we’ve got so many of them. We’re going to be able to rep them and rep them and rep them and kind of sort out which guys do what, figure out what our game plan is going to be, then plug these guys in as we see fit. It’s really hard to develop a depth chart a running back.

On if the Decrease in Contact in Preseason Going to Impact Preparation

I don’t think it’s going to affect us at all. I went back and looked at how many times we actually tackled last fall in our camp, and we actually tackled on 13 of the days. This year we can only tackle on 12 of the days. Again, I could have them tackle everyday if I really wanted to. It’s not legislation, it’s just a recommendation, but we’re going to follow the recommendation. I don’t think it’s going to affect us at all. We will still have 12 days where we can tee it up and tackle. We’ll still be in pads for, I think, three, or four, or five days. We won’t take them to the ground, but there will still be some contact.

On the Options at Inside Wide Receiver Without Jacky Marcellus

It’s (the depth) still better than it’s been since I’ve been here. (Wide receiver) Jordan Thompson looks good. (Wide receiver) Daikiel Shorts looks good. Those two guys were our two inside guys last year. We’re trying (Wide Receiver) KJ Myers a little bit right there. KJ has been around more than any receiver that we’ve had. He’s going into his fourth year here, so he knows every position. He’s got the body type where he can play inside or outside. (Wide Receiver) Lamar Parker is an inside guy. Lamar made some plays today that surprised me, so he’s another option. All those running back guys – We’ve talked about (running back) Wendell Smallwood being an inside receiver. We’ve talked about (running back) Andrew Buie doing a good job at being an inside receiver. (Tight End/Fullback) Cody Clay has done a good job at being an inside receiver. We’ve got more options than we’ve had since I’ve been here.

On the Chemistry that has been Developed

There is a comfort level that exists right now that I’m very pleased with. Our coaching staff has a great relationship with each other. The chemistry with our coaching staff – I couldn’t be more pleased with. We’ve been able to spend more time with our players. We’ve got a full roster. We sat in here and taught our punt team today, and the entire two-deep was the same entire two-deep that it was last year. We led the conference in net punting, and we weren’t teaching any new guys today. The chemistry and the continuity right now is better than it’s been since I’ve been here.

On the Experience of the Team in General

We’re sitting at about 20 seniors. There was a point where I didn’t know if we would have 10 seniors in this class. Adding some transfers, getting some kids to stay here, adding some junior college guys, and those guys doing a good job academically has put us in a position where we have a decent senior class. The junior class is the one that’s the biggie. There are 27-28 guys there that have played and are going on their third year now. When we didn’t want to play them as the freshmen, the one thing it gave us was them going into their junior year with a lot of snaps.

On Quarterback Clint Trickett

His sense of urgency, the way he’s reading signals and getting the ball snap is night and day compared to what it was at any point last year. It’s just nice to be able to not have to coach a guy every single play. You can call it, and he does it, and you just move on to the next one. He’s in a good place, and we will continue to develop his leadership skills and his continuity with the rest of the receivers. There’s a real comfort level right now with him and (center) Tyler Orlosky and the receivers that exists right now that didn’t exist at any point last season.

On Quarterback Clint Trickett Avoiding Hits and Staying Healthy

We will study that on film today, even with it being non-contact. He’s still going to have to understand – ‘I didn’t trigger the ball here, and I would have gotten hit. I worked out of the pocket and tried to get away from a defender, and I didn’t throw it when he got within an arms reach of me.’ – we will be able to work on that through reps, even though the defense won’t touch him this camp. We will be able to say ‘Look, man. You should have done this to avoid that hit.’ He needs to continue to improve on that.

On Quarterback Logan Moore

He does everything for us. He’s got a role on this team. He’s an extra arm, he’s an emergency quarterback, he’s an inside receiver, and he’s a special teams player. He’s a guy who’s just a role player, and we’re glad he’s here.

On Quarterback William Crest’s First Day

His head is spinning. We have to force-feed him reps. He just looks different than anyone else out there. He’s going to make a ton of mistakes, and it’s our job to keep him up and keep coaching him. He’s big, he’s fast, he’s strong, and he’s got a good arm. There’s a reason we recruited him for three years.

On Social Media Among Players

We talk to them all the time. (Director of Football Communications) Mike Montoro talked to them about it last night. I reiterated everything he said. Our coaches follow each and every one of our players. If you abuse it, it’s going to be gone. They chose to play at West Virginia University. We can do what we want about social media. Our guys are pretty good about it. I’m sure you follow a lot of these guys. We try to keep our eye on it. If guys aren’t representing West Virginia University, West Virginia Football and West Virginia athletics the way that they’re supposed to, then there will be repercussions with it.

On Safety Cullen Christian

He’s a guy we haven’t seen much of. We had Dayron Wilson at the one today. Dayron has done a good job for us. He was a walk-on, junior college guy from Lackawanna who may have been their best defensive player a year ago. He had a good spring. He’s repping there, and Cullen is repping there as well.

On if the close losses a year ago serve as frustration or motivation

Our team feels like we’re better at every position. You can make an argument that we are. We lost two guys to the NFL who are great players. We may have to replace those guys with the combination of a couple guys. They’re definitely using it as motivation. Definitely disappointing that we didn’t win some of those close games, and we’re not very happy about it. We have worked diligently to get ourselves in position and show improvement.

On if bad habits were limited on day one after individual workouts over summer

There are always bad habits. When you can’t use a ball and can’t go against each other during the summer, then you have to work those bad habits out on day one. I see a difference in their mentality. We’re coaching them how to do it - how to do it better. Bad habits are always going to exist. The mental aspect of it – I see a big difference. Maybe that’s just because we have a lot experience back. 

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Penguins sign Spaling - 07-31-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

The Penguins avoided arbitration with restricted free agent forward Nick Spaling (right) and signed him to a two-year contract worth a total of $4.4 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $1.5 million, Spaling's new contract will have a cap hit of $2.2 million. Appearing in 71 games last season, Spaling, 25, scored 32 points (13 goals, 19 assists).

Spaling was acquired along with forward Patric Hornqvist from the Predators in exchange for forward James Neal during last month's draft.

The Penguins and Spaling were scheduled to have an arbitration hearing today. He had sought a figure of $2.85 million per season while the Penguins countered with figure of $1.85 million.

After this signing, the Penguins have $4,230,833 of salary cap space according to They are still trying to re-sign restricted free agent forward Brandon Sutter.

-EN Says: The person on the Penguins happiest with this signing, aside from Spaling of course, might be Sutter.

After seeing a rogues gallery of below-average players such as Matt D'Agostini, Andrew Ebbett, Taylor Pyatt, Chris Conner, Chuck Kobasew and others struggle on the third line wings last season, Spaling represents an upgrade. He should provide a higher level of skill on the third line wing than Sutter saw at any point last season.

Spaling is a versatile player who can man any of the forward position. He also plays in virtually any situation having logged plenty of ice time on the penalty kill (1:31 per game) and power play (1:10) last season.

Advanced statistics don't reflect well on Spaling's 2013-14 season but he was stuck on a poor Predators team last season which drug his possession numbers down. If you look at players with comparable salary cap numbers via, Spaling's contract seems more than fair.

(Photo: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

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Empty Netter Assists - 07-31-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .


-The owner of Iceoplex, the Penguins' practice rink, is in some hot water over alleged tax evasion.

-The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins released their preseason schedule.

-Former Penguins forward Mikael Samuelsson (above) has joined Djurgården of Sweden's SHL.

-Happy 52nd birthday to former Penguins forward Troy Murray. Acquired at the 1995 trade deadline along with Norm MacIver in a deal which sent Martin Straka to the Senators, Murray appeared in 13 regular season games and scored two points for the Penguins in 1994-95. In the playoffs, he saw action in 12 games and netted three points. In the 1995 offseason, he joined the Avalanche as a free agent. He currently works as a broadcaster for the Blackhawks.

-Happy 28th birthday to the best No. 2 center in hockey:

-Happy 73rd birthday to former Penguins defenseman Paul Andrea. Acquired in the 1967 offseason along with George Konik, Dunc McCallum and Frank Francis in a trade which sent Larry Jeffrey to the Rangers, Andrea spent parts of two seasons with the Penguins. During the franchise's innagural season of 1967-68, Andrea appeared in 65 games and produced 32 points. In 1968-68 he only saw action in 25 games and scored 13 points. The following offseason, Andrea and John Arbour were traded to Vancouver of the Western Hockey League in exchange for Bryan Hextall, Jr. In 90 games with the Penguins, Andrea scored 45 points.

Neapolitan Ice Cream Metropolitan Division

-The Devils signed defenseman Andy Greene to a five-year contract worth a total of $25 million. Entering the final year of a contract with a salary cap hit of $3 million, Greene's new deal will have a cap hit of $5 million. Appearing in 82 games last season, Greene, 31, scored 32 points (eight goals, 24 assists).

-EN Says: Think Paul Martin Lite. Greene is a classic Devils defenseman who is remarkably composed in virtually every situation. He doesn't blow you away with any one skill but seems to do just about everything well. One could argue he's New Jersey's most valuable player. His age and the length of this deal might be reason for concern but he's more than worth this money in the short term.

-The Blue Jackets re-signed restricted free agent forward Dana Tyrell to a one-year two-way contract.

-The Blue Jackets signed former Maple Leafs forward Jerry D'Amigo to a one-year two-way contract.

Central Division

-Forward Paul Statsny is returning home by signing with the Blues.

-How does Stars general manager Jim Nill use advanced statistics?

Smythe Division

-Former Bruins defenseman Jon Rohloff has filed a lawsuit against the NHL alleging the league took insufficient action to reduce brain injuries caused by concussive and sub-concussive impacts.

-Former Predators forward Simon Moser has joined Bern of Switzerland's NLA.

(Photos: Al Bello/Getty Images)

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Empty Netter Assists - 07-30-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .


-According to The Hockey News, restricted free agent forward Nick Spaling has requested $2.85 million in arbitration. The Penguins have countered with $1.65 million. They are scheduled to have an arbitration hearing tomorrow.

-Happy 41st birthday to former Penguins forward Markus Naslund (right). A first-round pick in 1991, Naslund spent parts of three seasons with the Penguins. As a raw 20-year-old rookie in 1993-94, Naslund appeared in 71 games and scored 11 points. In 1994-95, Naslund was limited to 14 games and four points. In 1995-96, Naslund finally seemed to find his game by producing 52 points in 66 games, but at the trade deadline, he was dealt to the Canucks in exchange for Alex $&#$@! Stojanov. The trade is considered one of the worst in franchise history as Naslund developed into an all-star in Vancouver while Stojanov washed out after two seasons in Pittsburgh. In 151 games with the Penguins, Naslund scored 67 points.

-Happy 58th birthday to former Penguins goaltender Greg Redquest. A fourth-round pick in the 1976 draft, Redquest's entire NHL career amounted to one game with the 1977-78 Penguins. He was released in the 1979 offseason.

-Happy 44th birthday to former Penguins forward Jeff Christian. A free agent signing in the 1994 offseason, Christian parts of three seasons with the Penguins. During that span, he only saw action in 15 games and scored four points. In the 1997 offseason, he signed with the Coyotes.

-Happy 29th birthday to former Penguins defenseman Alex Goligoski (right). A second-round pick in 2004, Goligoski spent parts of the four seasons with the Penguins. He had a brief three-game cup of coffee in 2007-08 which produced two assists. In 2008-09, with defenseman Sergei Gonchar sidelined due to a preseason shoulder injury, Goligoski was inserted into the lineup and responded well by producing 20 points in 45 games. After appearing in two postseason games during the team's Stanley Cup run that spring, Goligoski's name earned a spot on the Cup. During 2009-10, Goligoski appeared in 67 games and registered 37 points. He appeared in all 13 of the team's playoff games and contributed nine points. After 60 games and 31 points in 2010-11, Goligoski was dealt at the trade deadline in exchange for James Neal and Matt Niskanen. In 177 regular season games with the Penguins, Goligoski scored 90 points, 95th-most in franchise history. In 15 postseason games, Goligoski scored 10 points.

Neapolitan Ice Cream Metropolitan Division

-Hurricanes captain/forward Eric Staal underwent surgery for a sports hernia. He is expected to be ready for the regular season.

-Former Hurricanes forward Chad LaRose has signed a one-year AHL contract with the Charlotte Checkers, the Hurricanes' affiliate. LaRose did not play in 2013-14.

Atlantic Division

-According to the Buffalo News, the Sabres will hire former Penguins forward/assistant coach Bryan Trottier as an assistant coach.

-The Maple Leafs re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Jake Gardiner to a five-year contract worth a total of $20.25 million. Coming off an entry-level contract with a salary cap hit of $875,000, Gardiner's new deal will have a cap hit of $4.05 million. Appearing in 80 games last season, Gardiner, 24, scored 31 points (10 goals, 21 assists).

-EN Says: This is a huge commitment to a young player who has only scratched the surface of his potential. Gardiner is a mobile puck-moving defenseman who can do just about anything offensively. Defensively, he's still learning the game at the NHL level and doesn't offer much of a physical game. If he reaches his ceiling, this contract could become a bargain.

-Canadiens restricted free agent defenseman P.K. Subban (right) has requested $8.5 million in arbitration. The Canadiens are offering $5.25 million. They are scheduled to have an arbitration hearing Friday.

-The Canadiens hired former Rangers assistant Dan Lacroix as an assistant coach and former Rockies/Blues/Flames/Maple Leafs/North Stars/Lightning/Canadiens/Flyers defenseman Rob Ramage as a player development coach.

-Former Sabres/Islanders defenseman Joe Finley has signed a one-year AHL contract with the Hamilton Bulldogs, affiliate of the Canadiens.

-The Panthers have re-signed restricted free agent forward Jimmy Hayes to a one-year contract worth $925,000. Coming off an entry-level contract with a salary cap hit of $654,167, Hayes, 24, appeared in 55 games last season and scored 18 points (11 goals, seven assists).

-EN Says: After being traded from the Blackhawks last season, Hayes found some success with the Panthers and scored 11 goals in just over have a season. If he can maintain that type of success over a full season, he could be a 20-goal threat. He's a big body (6-foot-6, 221 pounds) who plays in front of the net primarily.

-The Red Wings hired former Red Wings/Kings/Rangers forward Jim Hiller as an assistant coach.

-Negotiations on contract extension between Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock and general manager Ken Holland are on hold.

Central Division

-The Jets re-signed restricted free agent forward Michael Frolik (right) to a one-year contract worth $3.3 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $2,333,333, Frolik, 26, appeared in 81 games last season and scored 42 points (15 goals, 27 assists).

-EN Says: Frolik has tons of skill and even more speed. What he doesn't have have is a ton of consistency. Capable of playing all three forward positions, he has been fairly valuable through being versatile. This is a fair contract.

-The Jets re-signed unrestricted free agent forward Matt Halischuk to a one-year two-way contract.

-The Wild re-signed restricted free agent forward Justin Fontaine to a two-year contract worth a total of $2 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $600,000, Fontaine's new deal will have a cap hit of $1 million. Appearing in 66 games last season, Fontaine, 26, scored 21 points (13 goals, eight assists).

-EN Says: Fontaine broke through as a third-liner last season who could contribute some offense. If he can at least maintain his level of play, this is a bargain.

-The Blues signed former Panthers forward Peter Mueller to a one-year two-way contract.

Pacific Division

-The Kings re-signed restricted free agent forward Dwight King (right) to a three-year contract worth a total of $5.85 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $750,000, King's new deal will have a cap hit of $1.95 million. Appearing in 75 games last season, King, 25, scored 30 points (15 goals, 15 assists).

-EN Says: As a bottom-six forward, King has been a significant part of the Kings' two Stanley Cup championships in the past three seasons. A big body (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) who is tenacious on the forecheck, King can also contribute a little offense. This contract looks like a bargain.

Norris Division

-Former Capitals/Lightning/Thrashers/Blues/Bruins/Flyers/Canadiens forward Glen Metropolit has joined Adler Mannheim of Germany's DEL.

-Former Rangers/Blues goaltender Chris Holt has joined Ritten of Italy's Serie A league.

(Photos: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images, Marianne Helm/Getty Images, Francois Laplante/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images and Penguins Hockey Cards)

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Evaluating the Colonials, Post PBC Pro-Am Edition

Written by Craig Meyer on .

It's a point that's going to be stated over and over, not because those of us who cover Robert Morris basketball enjoy redundancy, but because it's true and equally important -- the 2014-15 version of the Colonials is going to be a relative unknown.

Such is life when eight of your 14 players were not on the team last season. Of those eight newcomers, five of them were playing high school basketball a few months ago.

With uncertainty come varied expectations. There's the promise of potential, but there are also the pitfalls that come with it. People are often optimistic about a new player's prospects, but they gloss over the potential downsides.

When you're dealing with unknown commodities, any small glance at what they bring to the table is helpful. That meant that this year's Pittsburgh Basketball Club Pro-Am took on a different kind of importance for those of us who follow Robert Morris. Not because the games meant more -- they're still exhibitions, after all -- but because this is our first look at a group of players that will make up the nucleus of the program going forward.

Below, I've got some brief evaluations of each player, both new and old, and how I think they'll project on the Colonials' roster this season.


Pro-Am regular season stats: 28.2 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.0 apg, 49.5 percent on FGs, 42.6 percent on 3s.

The story I did a week or so agoon Lucky covers this, but it's still worth repeating -- he has looked tremendous this summer. Granted, these type of leagues have a tendency of favoring older, more experienced players against younger ones -- just look at the NBA summer league -- but even that can't put too much of a damper on his numbers. Jones has done what we've seen so much of in his career -- strong defense, a good outside shot, loads of athleticism and a versatile game -- but it's almost as if it's been taken to another level. He looks faster, his shot's going down easier and there's a certain assertiveness that's becoming readily apparent, the kind that you see from a guy who knows he only has one year of college basketball left.

I think that observation's summed up by a conversation I had with him last week. After finishing an interview with Jones, I asked him if he was going to be heading home to Newark after the Pro-Am wrapped up. After all, the team's summer workouts are over by that point and with school not starting for another month. It's only natural for a guy, especially one who is an eight-hour car ride from home, to want to go back. His response? "Nah, I'm just going to be staying here, putting in work."

It's dangerous to draw sweeping conclusions from these games, a caveat that applies to each of these player evaluations, but I see Jones entering the season as a strong favorite to take home NEC player of the year honors. Awards like that are partially dependent upon how the team finishes, but with his combination of offense and defense, along with the strides he has shown, I have a hard time imagining a better player in the conference.


Pro-Am regular season stats: 25.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.7 apg, 49.1 percent on FGs, 35.7 percent on 3s

There was definitely more assertiveness in Oliver’s game. As opposed to the catch-and-shoot role he largely held last season, you would see him drive more to the basket and work off the dribble. On a couple of occasions, he showcased a nice move where he would step-back off the dribble and drain contested jump shots. There were some bad misses, sure, but you’re liable to get that in such a league.

It’s not realistic to expect him to have a Karvel Anderson-level jump when it comes to expanding his game, but given how many shots he took, those shooting percentages were pretty good. Perhaps he’s ready for a larger load this season. Even if that doesn’t come to fruition, I’d have to guess he begins the year as the starting shooting guard, despite some shakiness on the defensive end.


Pro-Am regular season stats: 10.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 62.1 percent on FGs 

We hear so much about guys with high ceilings, but I’ve always had a soft spot for players with high floors. They’re the kind of guys that may not do anything spectacularly well, but regardless of how poorly they do, you’re going to get something productive out of them.

That’s how I view someone like Tate. Even if he’s off, he provides the team with a strong rebounding threat down low and a big body that can move its way around the post. He’s a prototypical junkyard dog of a power forward. Not much has changed, but he did appear more comfortable on the offensive end, particularly with a semi-effective pump fake he was showcasing. That could be a product of a more relaxed atmosphere, but it may also be a positive development that’s here to stay.


Pro-Am regular season stats: 8.5 ppg, 7.5 apg, 2.0 rpg, 44.4 percent on FGs, 40.0 percent on 3s

After a promising freshman season often come expectations of stardom or, at the very least, a sizable step forward. With more playing time, I believed even at the end of last season that Kavon Stewart would live up to those hopes. Those statistics above are just from two games, so it’s a small sample size, but he seemed to be in much greater control of the game than he was last season. His 7.5-1 assist-to-turnover ratio is evidence enough of that fact.

His speed and ability to finish at the rim is uncommon at the low-major level. Don’t expect that to change. But if he truly wants to become a complete offensive weapon, he has to improve his jump shot. Two summer league games isn’t enough evidence to make a statement one way or another as to whether that’s the case right now. This much is certain, though: barring something unexpected, Stewart, along with Lucky Jones, is one of the players you can write in pen into Robert Morris’ opening game lineup.


Pro-Am regular season stats: 6.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 38.1 percent on FGs

One of the worst things that can happen to a player is a gradual regression in production during their career. That’s certainly not the case with Hawkins, but from what I was able to see this summer, I just didn’t see a whole lot of progress from Hawkins. He made some strides last season with more playing time – he’s miles from what he was even late in his freshman season – but he looked like largely the same player. A little aloof at times, solid (if unspectacular) defensively and not much of a refined post game, though the latter has been a point of emphasis for the coaching staff. His mid-range jumper, especially on the baseline, is still killer, though.

Based on his experience, there’s a good chance Hawkins is in position to be the starting center at the beginning of the season. But if much progress isn’t displayed, it wouldn’t be hard to envision someone like Elijah Minnie coming in and supplanting him.


Pro-Am regular season stats: 18.6 ppg, 4.2 apg, 4.0 rpg, 47.9 percent on FGs, 30.0 percent on 3s

If there’s one freshman to keep an eye on right away – one who can fill the ‘if you had to pick one player to make an immediate impact?’ question that coaches are generally smart enough to avoid answering -- it’s Reed. He comes in with a certain reputation as a scorer after averaging 32 points per game as a high school senior and for that most part, that’s an accurate descriptor. He’s fast and assertive, two things that help him get to the rim often and easily. He’s not much of a distributor, so he’ll definitely fill the two-guard role. As great as he was offensively, his defense is equally strong. There’s a pesky, tenacious quality to it, one that routinely allows him to get steals and get his team on a fast break.

There’s a downside to that skill set, of course. Reed was reckless at times, forcing up bad shots or trying to move into traffic when there simply wasn’t room. But he’s still a player that has yet to play a college game, so that stuff will likely subside with time. Though he’s not as talented, he reminds me a little bit of Russ Smith in a general sense – a guy with an uncanny ability to score combined with a ferocity on the defensive end. Of all the freshman, I think Reed’s a safe bet to be the leading scorer of the group in Year One.


Pro-Am regular season stats: 17.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 2.0 apg, 44.4 percent on FGs, 21.4 percent on 3s

From covering him in high school, my question with Minnie was how he would do once he actually went against players close to his own size and not the pint-sized opposition he faced in Class A of the WPIAL. As his Lincoln Park team advanced to the state championship, he gradually began to answer that question with a ‘Yes.’ This summer, I saw much of the same.

Minnie’s about 6-foot-8, but I’d have to guess his wingspan is close to seven feet. His arms seem to stretch out into the abyss and especially on defense, he puts them to good use. Almost instantly, I think he’ll deter players from attacking the rim freely and he’s athletic enough that he should be fine on the offensive end. His 3-point shot isn’t as bad as the above percentage would indicate, but he can sometimes get a little trigger happy from deep, especially for someone his size.

If he can keep his head on straight and add some bulk, which will almost inevitably come with a Division I lifting regiment, he can play a major role this season.


Pro-Am regular season stats: 9.8 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 1.4 apg, 41.4 percent on FGs

The thing that immediately stands out about Gomis is his sheer size – not so much his height, but his bulk. A lot of the big men you see in the NEC are of the same ilk as Hawkins and Minnie. They’re the long, lanky guys who you’re not going to see overpowering everyone on a consistent basis. That’s not the case with Gomis, who has a muscular frame that allows him to enforce his will on the low post.

His post game can use some work, as the field goal percentage indicates, but he seems to pick his spots well on offense. Plus, his rebounding ability his undeniable. At the very worst, he’ll have a firm spot in the Colonials’ rotation, with room to grow.


Pro-Am regular season stats: 11.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.2 apg, 36.7 percent on FGs, 34.5 percent on 3s

Kinsey’s in a pretty solid position as a freshman. You have someone entrenched as the starter in front of you in Stewart, so you can kind of take your time to figure things out and learn the college game. It also works well for Robert Morris because he brings a different kind of skill set than Stewart. Kinsey’s a slightly taller, stouter point guard who may not have the same speed as his sophomore counterpart, but he has inherent physical advantages that should help.

Like Stewart, he’s going to have to work on his shot, but even when his shooting was off, he still seemed to find a way to score. That’s an important quality. His decision-making was questionable during the summer league – he averaged 1.2 turnovers per game – but that should theoretically improve with time.


Pro-Am regular season stats: 3.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 57.9 percent on FGs

When I saw Frederick’s statistics from the regular season, I was kind of taken aback. The numbers that you see above indicate some solid performances in limited time, but so often what I saw from Frederick was something else. He looked almost lost on the court at times, like he was a gear or two slower than other players on the court.

Again, as a freshman, this could be natural, especially because he was sporting a knee brace throughout the tournament. I’ll be intrigued to see what Frederick can do once practices start because what I saw out at Montour was a player who’s simply not ready yet. Based on those observations, he seems like as good a candidate as any to redshirt.


Pro-Am regular season stats: 8.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 27.3 percent on FGs, 41.7 percent on 3s

 I don’t know if Andy Toole would be down for adopting the “run-on” term Bill O’Brien popularized at Penn State (I hope not), but when you think of walk-ons at the lower levels of Division I, the guys you think of aren’t typically good. With all due respect to the likes of Treadwell Lewis, Skovranko is much better than a traditional walk-on.

That’s not to say he didn’t also look lost at times. Like Stewart and Minnie, his former Lincoln Park teammate, Skovranko only played in two games, the first of which he looked completely overmatched in. He airballed shots, played shoddy defense and made some really glaring mistakes. His other appearance, however, was a completely different story. He was more in control on the offensive end and was knocking down 3 after 3. He’s not going to be a world-beater early in his career, but if he can carve out a niche as a taller player who can come off the bench and knock down outside jumpers – a tough matchup for any team – he’ll be a valued contributor.

NOTE: Jairus Lyles, Rodney Pryor and David Appolon did not participate in the Pro-Am.


 So, as a collective unit, what does do all of these individual assessments mean?

We’re still almost four months away from the start of the season, but I think these early signs are encouraging, more so than I thought entering the summer.

I’m always dubious of teams that have so many new pieces. For all of the talent there can be, there’s still a feeling out process with an indefinite length. Some of these teams find a way to click while others never can. It’s imprecise.

But there’s real potential with this team. I think all six of the returning players – Jones, Oliver, Tate, Hawkins, Stewart and Appolon – will all have a role in the team’s main rotation (let’s assume that will include a group of 10 players). Of the new guys, I think you can add Reed, Kinsey, Minnie and Gomis to that group. They’ve been impressive at times over the summer and you can envision them in a particular role in the team’s paradigm.

That’s a good group of players. Jones is your go-to guy, your star. Stewart is primed for a big leap this season, with Kinsey getting experience as a reliable back-up. Neither Oliver nor Reed will fill the void left by Karvel Anderson, but as a two-man platoon, they’re going to be strong, especially because they possess different skill sets. Appolon’s your do-everything guy who finally hit the maturation point last season fans hoped he would. Tate and Gomis are your grinders at the four, maybe a little offensively limited, but strong rebounders who will make plays. And Hawkins and Minnie are your bigs, the guys who will protect the rim with absurd length and even stretch out the floor.

Of course, there’s a lot of uncertainty, but isn’t the NEC going to be defined by that this season? When you take a team-by-team look, it’s not going to be a very good league. LIU, Wagner and Mount St. Mary’s lose almost everyone significant. Fairleigh Dickinson loses key pieces, as does Bryant. Sacred Heart still has a ways to go. If I had to pick, I’d put Robert Morris somewhere in the top three, along with the St. Francis’ (Brooklyn and PA).

So many variables still need to be figured out, but if the Pro-Am did one thing, it at least gave an idea of what’s possible. And, for the time being, that possibility is alluring.

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