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Robert Morris

Robert Morris' Pryor makes mark after adversity at junior colleges

| Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015, 10:46 p.m.
Robert Morris' Rodney Pryor scores over Sacred Heart's Phil Gaetano (4) and Steve Glowiak during the second half Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015, at Sewall Center.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Robert Morris' Rodney Pryor scores over Sacred Heart's Phil Gaetano (4) and Steve Glowiak during the second half Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015, at Sewall Center.

Robert Morris' uneven basketball season has been a period of adjustment for several players making their Colonials debuts. Some are doing better than others.

Freshman guard Marcquise Reed looks like a star in the making. A six-time Northeast Conference Rookie of the Week with a variety of moves and an accurate 3-point shot, he has made the transition look easy.

Another first-year player, guard Rodney Pryor, also is making an impact.

Getting to this point has been anything but easy.

A 6-foot-5 junior from Evanston, Ill., Pryor suffered a pair of injuries in junior college that ended his seasons before they began.

Pryor, out of Notre Dame High School in Chicago, played one season at Kirkwood (Iowa) Community College, then transferred to Cloud County (Kan.) Community College seeking more playing time.

He never got it. In 2012, during Cloud's first scrimmage, he broke a bone in his foot. The foot healed, but during the first practice the next season, he tore the ACL in his right knee.

“With the foot, it wasn't bad because I knew I was gonna come back,” Pryor said. “When I tore my ACL, I kind of shut down for a while. It took a lot of my close friends and my family to stay in my ear. Coach (Chad Eshbaugh) stayed on top of me, making sure I knew I was gonna come back strong and play Division I basketball.

Pryor said he got to a “low place” after the knee injury. After two years of injuries and inactivity, he said he asked himself, “Is basketball really for me?”

“It was like time was against me,” he said.

But Pryor stayed active with the team during practices and games, taking on the role of unofficial assistant coach.

“I was the behind-the-scenes guy, talking to guys and encouraging them,” he said. “The morale of the team went down after I went out. Before games, Coach would tell me I was gonna have the pregame speech because he knew the guys would rally around me, in a sense.

“I took on that role, and it really helped me a lot in terms of my character and who I am as a person. I started to believe in myself, being a leader off the court. I think it was really important for me and my adjustment to the game, just seeing it from a different view.”

RMU is asking the NCAA to grant Pryor another year of eligibility because of the time he missed.

Pryor, who wears a brace during practice and games, said his knee is at about 80 percent. He started strong, he said, then “hit a wall.”

His legs were tired, and his confidence lagged.

On Jan. 29, he scored 28 points against Fairleigh Dickinson, but his play, like the Colonials, has been up and down since then.

RMU coach Andy Toole said Pryor has embraced the opportunity to “play the game after almost having it taken from him.”

Toole added, “About the only thing he didn't put into the equation was the grind of the season. There's still times he's working through that. ... But it's all stuff he really wants to attack and improve. I think he has a perspective on how fragile this whole thing is, and he's trying to make the most of what he has in front of him.”

Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bcohn@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BCohn_Trib.

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