Robert Morris basketball gives Lucky some numbers
After Andy Toole took over at Robert Morris in 2010, the Colonials didn't miss a beat, going 90-50, including 53-17 in the Northeast Conference, in his first four seasons.
The trend doesn't figure to change any time soon.
Robert Morris is picked to finish third in the NEC behind St. Francis (N.Y.) and Central Connecticut State, but three-year starting senior forward Lucky Jones hopes the Colonials have what it takes to provide Toole with his first NCAA Tournament appearance.
“We're looking good, a lot better than when we started practicing,” Jones said. “I want to make sure the guys pay attention to details. You have to do it in practice, just not in a game.”
Robert Morris returns six of the eight scholarship players who finished last season, including the 6-foot-6 Jones, an all-NEC preseason pick.
Although the Colonials ended last season short-handed because of defections and suspensions, Toole was able to coax another NEC championship game appearance out of his team.
“Every team goes through adversities and ups and downs,” Toole said. “I don't think we're an exception to the rule. If you look across college basketball, there are a lot of variables that can change a team.
“It's the new landscape of college basketball. We're not different. When things arise, we try to work through it and not dwell on it.”
Toole is hoping a deeper bench can help carry the Colonials even farther. He has brought in eight players to supplement the veterans and said he's expecting immediate contributions
He must replace NEC Player of the Year Karvel Anderson and point guard Anthony Myers-Pate. Anderson averaged 19.7.
Three freshmen — guard Marcquise Reed, guard Jafar Kinsey and forward Elijah Minnie — along with junior-college transfers Rodney Pryor and Lionel Gomis are expected to make an impact.
They will battle for playing time with returning guards Kavon Stewart, Charles Oliver and David Appolon and forwards Stephan Bennett and Aaron Tate.
But new director of player development Velton Jones knows the cards usually are stacked against such low-major programs as Robert Morris, where there's little room for error in the postseason.
“You have to play your best in the biggest game, and the last couple years we haven't been able to do that,” said Velton Jones, the team's point guard from 2010-13. “It's hard work year in and year out.”
Lucky Jones is one of the players Toole will count upon to guide the newcomers through the grind. Jones said he's eager to lead the way.
“Coach talks about how we're competing for minutes every day in practice,” Lucky Jones said. “If one guy goes down, there's another guy ready to step up. That's what we do at Robert Morris.”