Tuesday, August 26, 2014

New Home

As you may or may not have heard, Chris has taken over as the Site Publisher over at ColonialsCorner.com. That URL is temporarily down, but you can still access the site at www.robertmorris.rivals.com ...Tons of content, and lots to come over there!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

RMCMB/NECMBB offseason run down

--Lee Kunkel

Can you believe it? July is almost over. Only about a month left before the dorms and classrooms will fill up on the campus of Bobby Mo. With that, another step closer to the NCAA basketball season. Compared to the past few off seasons, it's been pretty quiet. There have been a few transfers around the league, but nothing too shocking. Schedules are leaking out slowly (including Robert Morris).

For the first time in a long time, there were not any coaching changes in the league, (nor any teams leaving after Quinnipiac and Monmouth left a year ago). This is probably the biggest reason that the league had a relatively stable offseason. Andy Toole and Jamion Christian both had their name attached to a few vacancies but both ended up staying put. Each will have a team capable of getting back to the NCAA tournament, and neither had an offer that was too appealing to pry them away from the two top programs in the NEC last season.
Jones will look to lead the Colonials
in 2014-2015 (p/c Post Gazette).

The guys over at NYC Buckets broke down the NEC transfers this off season. Give it a read. There were a few small surprises, and Wagner was probably hurt the most. They lost lengthy big man Mario Moody and sharp shooter Jay Harris. Both would have been starters from the Seahawks, who lost quite a bit of talent to graduation as well.

EJ Reed of LIU was maybe the biggest surprise. Reed, an athletic forward with solid skill, was a major part of the Blackbird attack last year, and was expected to once again been a top tier option for LIU. Reed is heading to the DII level.

As for the Colonials, three players have moved on, but none are too surprising. Britton Lee and Jeremiah Worthem were dismissed from school in January, and neither will return. They would have had to sit out the entire first semester before they could even step foot back on campus, so they likely would not have been able to play for RMU much at all this season. Worthem is no doubt a tough loss, as he had NEC POY written all over him and would have been a major part of the team this season. 

Desjuan Newton also left the team, but he also did not play for RMU in 2014 after stepping away from the team after Christmas. Worthem and Lee are at Junior College this season and could be back at the D1 level in 2016 (Surely Worthem will be). Newton is at a DII school.

As for recruiting, RMU had a lot of movement. With three players leaving via transfer, a few scholarships left over from the year before, and the graduation of Karvel Anderson and Ant Myers Pate, coach Toole had a lot of spots to fill throughout the roster.

For highlights and a detailed breakdown of each player, check out the class breakdown here.

The Colonials added  freshman forwards Andre Frederick (Detroit, Mich.) and Elijah Minnie (Monessen, Pa.), freshman guards Jafar Kinsey (Syracuse, N.Y.) and Marcquise Reed (Laurel, Md.), junior forward Lionel Gomis (Dakar, Senegal ), junior guard Rodney Pryor (Evanston, Ill.) and sophomore guard Jairus Lyles (Washington, D.C.). They also added freshman preferred walk-on Ryan Skovranko (Pittsburgh PA.)

Minne and Skovranko are the highlight names on this list (simply because of location). The local duo chose to stay home and play for Toole after winning two state titles in high school at Lincoln Park. Minne had a lot of high major interest and is an incredible defender and athlete. He will surely produce a few highlight dunks at the Chuck. I expect him to have a role this season. Skovranko is a lengthy shooter, and one to track for the future.

Gomis may make the biggest impact out of the gate for RMU. He's 6'9 and a legitimate 220. RMU has NOT had many forwards that are "big" (Usually undersized and strong as hell: Tate, Aaron. Or tall but skinny: Hawkins, Stephan). He's big, and knows how to use his frame. He played a year at Siena before going to Community College for a year. Gomis has two years of eligibility left and will look to anchor down the paint and push Stephan Hawkins at the center position.

Kinsey, Reed and Frederick are the future of the program, but all three will have a chance to get minutes right away. While Frederick will have quite a battle in a crowded front court, Reed and Kinsey will have a very good shot. Andy Toole will need a group effort to replace Anderson at the two guard, and Reed has the makeup to take some of those minutes. He can shoot and score it with anybody. It's the other parts of his game (particularly defense) that will decide just how much he plays year one. Kinsey will be penciled in to play the backup point behind Kavon Stewart. 

Pryor could be the biggest steal for RMU. The 6-4 swingman has battled injuries his whole career including a torn ACL just before the start of the 2013-2014 campaign. He has the size and talent to be a very good D1 player if he can stay on the court.

The last member of the recruiting class, Jairus Lyles, is a transfer from VCU. Any time a player comes from that type of program, you know he has talent. Lyles will have to sit out this season, but should be a major part of the 2015-2016 plans.

Some other notes/thoughts:

Lucky Jones had a very big offseason/summer league. He is primped to have a big senior season, and could win NEC Player of the Year. He was also named to NYC Buckets very early first team All NEC. Jones has accomplished a lot at RMU, and will once again have a huge season on both ends of the court, but is still missing that one elusive accomplishment. Winning the NEC tournament.

Once practice "officially" starts, it will go-go-go for the Colonials. Andy Toole has a lot of talent, a lot of depth, and a lot of questions heading into year five of the Toole era. Only Jones and Stewart are "expected" starters and there are many roles that will need to be filled. Will the Colonials play man-to-man or go with the 2-3 zone again? Who replaces Karvel? Can the freshmen adapt? and many more....

With the season quickly approaching we will have a full roster breakdown, more on the schedule, predictions and much more. Don't forget to get updates on the summer league, which concludes this week with a couple colonials playing in the title game.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Pro-AM semi's: discussing Chuck, Tate

The Greentree Pro-AM summer league is winding down to a halt. When I’m not breaking my back sitting on the bleachers I get sad about this. I love basketball. I love watching, analyzing, looking for tendencies, critiquing the awful coaching, and joking around with the other writers. But there are also nights like tonight, where there was some less-than-stellar basketball being played.

Today was the semifinals of the league. Game one featured the seven seed Shale Attorneys featuring Chuck Oliver squaring off against the number two seed South Hill Audi old guys. I added the last part on, but the players really are a bunch of former collegiate players still trying to ball out. Take former WPIAL star and Nebraska guard Lance Jeter for instance, who can definitely still get to the tin but also looks like he ate Raymond Felton.

Anyway, Chuck didn’t look too bad. He showed up for a 7:15 game at 7:14, meaning he put exactly zero shots before the game. Unsurprisingly, his jump shot wasn’t on but he showed effectiveness getting to the rim, especially using his left. I also thought he passed very well in the transition game and moved well without the ball. Summer league basketball is a lot of one-on-one action, so moving without the ball doesn’t necessarily mean your teammates are feeding you open looks, but it didn’t go unnoticed here.

There was a nice ongoing discussion during the game about Chuck and the expectations the general fanbase may have for him. I like Chuck’s game and enjoyed watching him get to handle the ball a little bit in this game. However, I don’t think anyone should expect to see more than 25 minutes a game from him. He’s pretty average defensively and doesn’t have a very diverse offensive game. It’s a lot of spot up three’s and baseline floaters.  I really think Marcquise Reed is going to push him for minutes because of how pesky Reed is defensively. It’ll be interesting to see what Rodney Pryor brings to the table too.

Chuck’s team did win to go to the final which is kind of incredible in its own right. Along with Oliver  there is Duquesne guard Rene Castro (who, along with a lot of other Duquense guards, has looked really good) and Pitt forward Aron Nwanko, but other than that the roster is littered with two West Liberty wing players, a Cannon wing, and Pitt walk-on Joshua Ko (who’s awful). Good for them.

Game two featured Lucky Jones on team PGT versus Aaron Tate and Marcquise Reed of team System 1. It was a pretty awful game when you consider the level of talent playing. Lucky Jones started things off nice by hitting a deep elbow three then a dirty step back three at the top of the key. He also squared off defensively against Pitt’s Michael Young, an athletic forward with a significant size advantage. Even when there were times Lucky was overmatched in the low post, he did a great job with his positioning which allowed him to poke away the ball a few times. Young also gave us the most excitement in the night when him and Duquesne’s Darius Lewis got into it and received double technicals.

Much like we’ve seen with Lucky in the past, his jump shot wasn’t always there but he got to the line a ton. That’s what makes Lucky a special player; the ability to effect the game in so many different ways.

Marcquise Reed didn’t see the floor a lot and when he did didn’t do a whole lot. He nailed an easy three when a defender didn’t step up off a pick and roll. I think he finished with seven points.

I’ve really enjoyed watching Aaron Tate play this summer. He’s shown up to almost every session and has shown an ability to at least try a few things, like working out of the low post. I doubt we’ll see it much (if at all) during the season but when he gets the ball in the low post on the right he hasn’t looked bad trying to move and finish with his left. Also, I am fully convinced he would be an Olympic-caliber volleyball player if he wanted to be. He has UPS.

Tate and Reed’s team went on to win the game and will face Chuck in the championship game on Wednesday. Overall, it was another relatively bland night of hoops, but these things happen. I’m not sure if I’ll go to the championship game Wednesday, but will try and run a story later in the week no matter what.

Until next time!

--Chris Cappella

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

7-9 summer league journal: Kavon, Kinsey, and Karvel Anderson

Welcome back! T’was a really fun night of Summer league basketball. Those things tend to happen when the life of the party (me) shows up to do some reporting. Anyway, there were a lot of guys missing tonight but that didn’t stop me from having A LOT to say:

-Kavon Stewart made his summer league debut tonight and he was a lot of fun + tried to do new things. That’s what can make summer league fun to watch. You could tell Kavon wasn’t moving all too well and admitted afterwards his knee was still bothering him. Also, he had a pretty nasty cut on his hand from Lucky Jones in a pickup game.

Kavon took four jump shots in the game and only one of them came kinda close to going in. He tried stepping into two three’s at the top of the key, airballing one and bricking the other. He took a corner three, which wasn’t a bad looking shot, and took a midrange jumper off a crossover which also caught all of the back iron.

Kavon said afterward he’s focusing a lot on repetition, especially with the consistency of his hands and elbows. He said sometimes his arms will be where they want to be and it feels good but then the next shot it will be something completely different. Bottom line is this: even if it doesn’t always look pretty, him having a shot that is comfortable and gives him a chance at success is what’s most important. For example, how in the name of all the basketball gods did Michael Kidd-Gilchrist get into the NBA with a shot like this? But you know what… it works for him. Same with Kavon. Just get comfortable and consistent. In my opinion, he could also work on his timing a little. His high jump creates for timing issues (much like Anthony Myers-Pate) and too often the shot will be released just a split-second late.

Besides that Kavon looked like Kavon. He used his left very effectively but went to his right a ton in the second half and was looking to create rather than finish. He had some nifty passes and was a pest defensively. I’m just going to throw this out there now and tell you Kavon Stewart will win an NEC defensive player of the year award before he graduates. He is ANNOYING defensively. His hands are so quick and he has a pretty wide frame for a point guard.

-Game two featured Lionel Gomes, Jafar Kinsey, Andre Frederick, and Karvel Anderson. Kinsey, a point guard, started off shooting the ball really well stepping into a three off the pick and roll and hit a few corner threes. He clearly has a better shot than I think anyone really imagined. I will continue to say that he understands how to read the defense off the pick and roll really well, knowing when to attack, create, take a jump shot, and most importantly peel back and start over. He looked really, really good again.

-Lionel Gomes also impressed me. Gomes is a big man who sometimes just wants to brawl underneath the basket. He also uses his body really well on rebounding and can rebound out of his position. The only thing he’ll struggle with is adjusting to the size of the game. Gomes is big but definitely has the frame to add on and can sometimes get stuck to his man when trying to rebound.

Offensively he was pleasant to watch. Gomes always seems to have a plan when he has the ball. I hate to pick on Aaron Tate (mostly out of a fear that he’ll kill me) but Tate touches the ball and freezes. Gomes gets the ball and can square up and shoot a mid-range jumper or can work with his back to the basket. He definitely has some body control issues, but there’s more to like than dislike.

-Andre Frederick gave everyone a scare when he appeared to tweak his knee (on which he wears a brace for) and stayed down before limping off. To be honest, I still have no feel for Frederick’s game. He took a few mid-range jumpers that looked nice but I can’t give you much more than that.

-Lucky Jones and Marquice Reed also played tonight but I did not watch any of their games. Lucky apparently put on a show early and Reed continues to get after it defensively. I will maintain the thought that the starting two guard position is more up in the air than people think.


-Hat tip to Andrew Chiappazzi who pretty much decked Pitt’s Cameron Wright a la Ray Lewis vs. Dustin Keller when Wright came Chiappazzi’s way. The legend grows…

-Kavon Stewart did some pretty serious trash talking that definitely lead to some angry opponents by games end. I always enjoy a good trash talker.

-There were some kids out there who I am convinced are not better than me. Someone put in a word to get me a jersey.

-Karvel Anderson went all Karvel Anderson in the last game with his team down seven and two minutes left, scoring something like 13 of the last 15 points. The ending was also incredibly spectacular, where he hit came down the court and hit a deep three with a hand in his face. After missing the front end of a one-and-one (YGTMYFT!!!), he came down and did the exact same thing which really riled up the crowd. Then, with ten seconds left, Karvel let the ball roll up-court where he picked it up, took a few dribbles, spun out of what appeared to be a foul attempt and drained another three to tie the game. It was incredible. His team actually went on to lose off a buzzer-beating put back.

Which brings me to my last point, and this will probably be the last time I make it: I still have no idea how Karvel Anderson didn’t even get a summer league invite. No calls. Nothing. Although I could be wrong, I’d be willing to bet most mid-major conference players of the year at least got summer league invites. Hell, even Sacred Heart’s Shane Gibson got one last year! I know there is the position change and the height, but when you can shoot the ball like that… It just doesn’t make sense to me. It never will. There are other things I love about his game, but I’ll stop there.

Hope I didn’t rile you all up too much there. Sometimes you just have to stand for something.

Until next time.

--Chris Cappella

Monday, June 23, 2014

Summer league journal 6-23: Reed impresses

Greetings all! As we near the end of June, basketball related activities begin to pick up. Today marked the beginning of the Pro-Am summer league played at Montour High School. All 14 members of the Robert Morris basketball team are on one of the eight teams. There are four games each night, two of which happen at the same time in separate gyms. I caught a half of each game.

This was my first summer league experience. It was… something. The style of play was similar to how you would play a video game. The pace is frantic but free flowing with little defense and lots of three pointers and alley-oops. I definitely feel like I could bang some three pointers and impress the crowd. Anyway, some observations:

-The first game featured big man Lionel Gomis, point guard Jafar Kinsey, and former colonial Karvel Anderson going against shooting guard Marcquise Reed and Aaron Tate.

Reed was absolutely the most impressive person I saw play. The JUCO transfer averaged a measly 31.2 points per game at Capitol Christian and has a sweet looking jump shot. I wasn’t so much impressed with him offensively as I was defensively. I expected Reed to get buckets, but what I didn’t expect was for him to hound Karvel Anderson the way he did in the first half. He showed some active hands and overall good positioning.

There is a lot up in the air in regards to who will be the starting shooting guard. I think Chuck Oliver certainly has an advantage going into the season but isn’t a slam dunk by any means. Toole is going to want to go back to his man-to-man defense, something Oliver struggled with last year. If Reed can show consistencies with his jump shot and bring it on the defensive end he’s going to see the floor a lot.

-Watching Jafar Kinsey play for the first time was pretty cool. I think he was Toole’s first commit in the recruiting class. Kinsey has a Velton Jones-ish build to him and also ramped up the intensity on the defensive end grabbing a few steals off cross-court lob passes. He seemed pretty articulate off the pick and roll, identifying when to get to the rim but usually looking to pass first.

-The big men didn’t look too bad. Lionel Gomis is a big guy. Definitely has more muscle to him than most big men we’re accustomed to (which isn’t saying much). He was a little hesitant around the rim early, often fading away off his spin move in the paint. You can tell he throws his weight around rebounding though. Speaking of throwing weight around, here is your Aaron Tate update: still strong as a bull. I got a good chuckle out of watching his defender leave his feet on one of his patented pump fakes. Tate actually looked good offensively though: he finished with his left hand twice and scored off a nice low post possession.

-The other game being played featured Chuck Oliver, Lucky Jones, and Stephan Hawkins. The only notes I wrote down for the game was “shit ton of three’s.” Chuck and Lucky had some decent one-on-one battles and Chuck shot the ball well (and often). Hawk hit his baseline jumper but didn’t see any low post touches, which was kind of disappointing. Oh well.
-Game three featured two of the bigger names with one team having forward Elijah Minnie and guard Ryan Skovranko facing off against forward Andre Frederick. Minnie was fairly aggressive with his outside shooting and certainly has a nice shot for someone his size. His shot has a nice arc to it. He had a few nice drives to the rim as well. The biggest takeaway I had about Minnie was how he plays above the rim. RMU has very few guys who do that. It’ll be an adjustment period for him but you can certainly see the promise.

Not a whole lot doing for Skovranko who was not very aggressive and is definitely not the 6’7” he’s been listed as. Frederick seems to have a pretty good idea of what to do with the ball in the low post.

-Did not participate: David Appolon (foot), Rodney Pryor (ACL), Kavon Stewart, Jairus Lyles (undisclosed).

-Reminder: All of these observations are coming from the 20 minutes I watched in the first summer league game of the year. Don’t take anything too seriously.

Games are played every Monday and Wednesday. I will not be at the next two sessions due to previously committed activities. Follow Andrew Chiappazzi and Craig Meyer for updates.

Until next time!

--Chris Cappella

Friday, June 20, 2014

Pro-Am rosters and coaching staff updates

The rosters of all eight Pro-Am teams has been released along with this years schedule. As you can see, all 14 of Robert Morris' players are on a roster: 

You gotta give credit where it's due, so big thanks to Matthew Steinbrink for tweeting out those photos even if he does cover Pitt basketball for a living. 

There are some former local WPIAL stars back in the league. Arizona point guard T.J. McConnell, Vanderbilt guard Nolan Cressler, Penn State guard Geno Thorpe, and Nebraska Guard Lance Jeter being the headliners. I like that RMU point guard Jarius Lyles is going to get the opportunity to learn from someone like McConnell.

In other housekeeping new, former Robert Morris assistant coach Michael Byrnes was announced as the new head coach at D-III Rhode Island College Wednesday. The news was first reported by Craig Meyer. Byrnes was an original assistant of coach Toole's 2010-2011 staff. Before joining Toole's staff Byrnes spent several years at the prep level as a head coach, compiling an overall record of 404-131. The only assistant remaining from that first year is Robby Pridgen. 

"Michael has been involved in basketball at both the prep and collegiate level for over 20 years and his success at the prep level speaks for itself," Toole told Rhode Island's University Herald. "The players he's produced, the contacts he's made and the experience he's gained in the prep school ranks made him a natural fit to join our staff at Robert Morris to help take our program to even greater heights."

Best of luck in the future coach!

--Chris Cappella

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Robert Morris releases its hoops schedule

As the title of this post suggests, the RMU basketball team has released its schedule. Here's the link for the full thing.

The beauty of schedule release day is that even though it's June and we have no idea of who will be good or bad, we still try and predict records and tough and easy stretches of the schedule. I love the non-conference schedule-- it's not overwhelming but just about every team faced is a quality basketball program. 

There are two "headliners" in the out of conference schedule. The second game of the year will be at Chapel Hill when the Colonials take on North Carolina. Much like last years early season matchup at Kentucky, this game could be a good measuring stick for a young squad. I don't think anyone will expect them to go into UNC and beat the Tar Heels but it would be nice to see the team play with some toughness. 

The second game "headliner" is at Georgetown in the fourth game of the year. This is a game I think RMU could realistically win if they play well. Georgetown went 18-15 last year and lost in the second round of the NIT. They lost one of their best players in Markel Starks to graduation. While they did bring in a good recruiting class, I'll be interested to see if Robert Morris could possibly steal one on the road. 

Everything else is about just as we expected. RMU will travel to Clemson December 30 before kicking off conference play at home against Mount St. Mary's in the NEC title game rematch January 3. The only game not previously announced that appeared on the schedule was the third game of the year at Bradley.

There will be more frequent visits to the Charles L. Sewall Center this year, which is nice. Last year RMU had only 12 total home games and only four of those were against non-NEC opponents. This year RMU will have 15 home games and six of these will be against non-NEC opponents (Lafayette, Youngstown State, Oakland, Buffalo, Duquesne, and Delaware). 

Reminder: the NEC is going with an 18-game conference schedule, meaning every NEC team will play each other twice. This is smart and logical. Last year there was only a 16 game conference schedule, which was not smart or logical. Although it's tough to say who we expect to be contenders in the NEC, the January 22-24 Thursday-Saturday road trip to Mount St. Mary's and St. Francis (Brooklyn) will probably be the toughest weekend of the year. The colonials will end conference play with two home games against Wagner and St. Francis (PA). Both of these teams figure to be in contention for the NEC title.

Not much more to add here. It was a pleasant surprise to see the schedule released extra early this year. See ya November 14.

--Chris Cappella