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RMU set to tip off season

| Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, 10:00 p.m.

A lot has changed for the Robert Morris men's basketball team since its memorable 59-57 victory March 19 win against Kentucky in the NIT.

Graduation took two leaders — point guard Velton Jones and forward Russell Johnson — and surprise transfers of 3-point whiz Coron Williams (Wake Forest) and center Lijah Thompson (Division II Lincoln) took two other potential starters.

While more than 30.6 points per game exited the Sewall Center doors, the expectations remain the same. The Colonials again are expected to be one of the premier teams in the Northeast Conference.

RMU coach Andy Toole, armed with a new contract and new office, is excited about the six new players on the squad: three freshmen and three transfers.

But he also is counting on veteran point guard Anthony Myers-Pate, center Mike McFadden, shooting guard Karvel Anderson and forward Lucky Jones to lead the newcomers.

Robert Morris opens the 2013-14 season 7 p.m. Saturday at home against Savannah State, which lost to Pitt on Friday.

Toole said the team is more detailed than it was against California (Pa.) in the exhibition Oct. 28.

“With so many new guys, every time we step on the floor it's going to be a learning experience,” Toole said. “I'm thankful for the extra practice time we've had with the team because we've needed all of it, and I still don't know if it's enough.

“I think we're getting better, but the hard thing is consistency. A lot aren't used to that daily accountability and so much information being thrown at them. I think they're trying to learn, they want to learn, and they will learn. We hope it's sooner than later.”

Toole likes how the veterans are trying to teach the right things and trying to explain to the new players what is important and how to prepare.

“Mike, Lucky, Karvel and Anthony are trying to set the tone every day,” Toole said.

Myers-Pate will be asked to step in some big shoes, replace Velton Jones the school's career leader in games played and starts, and No. 2 all-time in assists.

The three-year letterman and 22-game starter seems ready to assume the role as a leader.

“It's hard to replace a guy like Velton, who played with a lot of heart and had a lot of experience and knowledge of the game,” Myers-Pate said. “I learned a lot from him, he was like a big brother.

“I have to be more of a vocal leader, helping other new guys out. I have to be a rock.”

Myers-Pate said the team is eager to start the season, but it won't be easy because Savannah State is a lot like them.

“We're excited to get started,” Myers-Pate said. “It's going to be a hard, physical game. They play real good defense, and they're going to want to beat us like they did last year.”

Savannah State won the 2012-13 meeting in Georgia, 61-52.

Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at pschofield@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.

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