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Robert Morris men picked 6th in NEC, eye bounceback season

| Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016, 8:48 p.m.
Robert Morris' Kavon Stewart passes in the lane with LIU Brooklyn's Nura Zanna close by Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 at Sewall Center.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Robert Morris' Kavon Stewart passes in the lane with LIU Brooklyn's Nura Zanna close by Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 at Sewall Center.

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — The question is whether one subpar season was an aberration.

The answer, in Andy Toole's mind, will be determined over the course of Robert Morris' men's basketball season.

“We had a great eight-year stretch. Last year we struggled,” Toole said during Northeast Conference media day Wednesday at Barclays Center, where his team was picked to finish sixth. “Now we have to be able to bounce back and have a really good year. That's been our sole focus and our sole motivation all spring, summer and fall.

“We're a couple weeks away from finding out if we're on the right track.”

The Colonials enter the upcoming season following a 10-22 (8-10 in NEC) campaign that was cause for a program-wide postmortem.

What did the examination reveal?

“The biggest thing that I think was missing from our group last year is that we didn't compete hard enough. We didn't come together as a team well enough. I think we've addressed a lot of those things. We've talked about a lot of those things. We've tried to correct some of the errors we made last year. ... Guys are making mistakes (in practice), which always happens, but guys are responding better to those mistakes,” Toole said.

What bothered Toole most about last season was the team's inability to overcome adversity.

“It was disappointing in the fact that was something of a trademark of our program for a long stretch,” Toole said. “Chemistry-wise, we just couldn't get it together. We couldn't put individual agendas aside to come together as a team. I was very disappointed because I thought we had some talented pieces. And that's something we pride ourselves on: being able to sacrifice ourselves for the greater good of the team. That's the way I want our teams to play. That's the way I want our program to be known. For that not to happen was very disappointing.”

“I think there were some warning signs now that you look back in hindsight that maybe you should've seen and done better in addressing, to maybe get out in front of some of the issues that arose. But it was good learning experience for me, and I think we did a really good job trying to evaluate our program from top to bottom to see where we could improve and get things back on the right track.”

To that end, the Colonials brought in Kyle Griffin and Mike Iuzzolino to serve as assistant coaches. Recruiting-wise, freshmen Clive Allen, Dachon Burke, Braden Burke, David Cole and junior college players Lorenzen Wright Jr. and Roberto Mantovani join returnees Kavon Stewart, Matty McConnell, Billy Giles, Aaron Tate and Isaiah Still.

Toole said he views this season with a mix of optimism and an opportunity to correct the mistakes from 2015-16.

“I'm excited to get on the floor with this group,” Toole said. “I know they're excited to get on the floor and play against some other people, and maybe the bad taste out of our mouth from last year.”

Denis Gorman is a freelance writer.

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