Robert Morris men's basketball looks for new leaders
Now it's Rodney Pryor's turn to be a leader at Robert Morris.
One year ago, Pryor was in the same shoes as the incoming recruiting class.
He was unproven on the Division I level and was coming off two seasons where injuries sidelined him.
But after helping Robert Morris return to NCAA Tournament for the first time in four years, Pryor and fellow senior Aaron Tate will look to nurture the incoming class.
When practice officially begins 10 a.m. Sunday, they will be there to lead the way.
Pryor said he didn't know what to expect during his first year of D-I basketball after two injury-plagued seasons.
He surprised himself with how well he played last season, which ended with the Colonials playing in the NCAA Tournament and defeating North Florida before falling to eventual champion Duke in the Round of 64 in Charlotte, N.C.
“I really impressed myself just to see how I could come back mentally and physically and be able to accomplish what I did,” Pryor said. “I credit my teammates and coaches for pushing me every day and making sure I did my rehab and was staying accountable.”
Now he gets a chance to hold other players accountable.
The players have big holes to fill if the Colonials are to make a repeat performance in the Northeast Conference and NCAA tournaments. RMU must replace senior Lucky Jones and NEC Rookie of the Year Marcquise Reed, who transferred to Clemson.
Pryor, Reed and Jones combined to average 45 points. Pryor averaged 15.6 points. But who will replace Reed and Jones?
Sophomore Elijah Minnie (Lincoln Park/Monessen), who averaged 6.8 points, and junior point Kavon Stewart are two players expected to pick up the scoring.
“We have to lead the guys the right way and always trying to be positive,” Pryor said. “Showing guys how to bring it every day.
“It will make my role a little tougher because I'll have to bring it every day because these guys will be looking up to me.”
Tate said he talked with coach Andy Toole earlier this week about being a leader.
“We have some talented new players that are eager to learn,” Tate said. “We have to teach them how to come together.”
The newcomers include freshmen Isaiah Still, Matty McConnell (Chartiers Valley), Steven Whitley, Joe Hugley and Jordan Lester and junior college transfer Billy Giles.
Toole said while it will be tough to replace Jones and Reed, he sees no reason why it can't be a group effort.
“We knew Rodney had that potential, and he started the season with some big games,” Toole said. “He was able to stay pretty consistent. What Marcquise did last year was a little bit of an anomaly. He was able to score, but he still had a lot to learn about when to give up the ball and playing defense.
“I don't know if we have someone like Marquise, but we could have a bunch of players that average between 9 and 14 points per game. We expect Rodney to be above that.”
Robert Morris (20-15) got hot at the right time last spring, putting together a seven-game winning streak which cumulated in an NEC Tournament title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.