RMU set for former coach
When Robert Morris junior forward Aaron Thomas steps on the court tonight, he will see a familiar face sitting on the opposing bench.
Eastern Michigan coach Jim Boone recruited Thomas but left before Thomas played one minute. Eastern Michigan and Robert Morris tip off at 6 p.m. at the Convocation Center in Ypsilanti, Mich.
"I guess it will be a little weird seeing the guy who recruited me on the other team's bench," said Thomas, who scored a school record 38 points in Robert Morris' first game of the season against UMKC on Friday. "It most likely will feel odd, but he left to move up. It was his time to move on."
Boone didn't realize, when he left Robert Morris, what he was getting himself into. In his first season, he had to deal with losing 10 of 13 players for various reasons that ranged from bank fraud to not wanting to practice.
"I had to make some difficult decisions," Boone said. "It was a rough time, and there was a growing period, but I feel like I have weathered the storm. We are ready to go this year."
Boone returns five starters this season from a team which finished 6-24 last year. The Eagles leading scorer from last season is Ricky Cottrill, who averaged 19.4 points per game. Cottrill signed an NCAA National Letter of Intent with Robert Morris under Boone, but was let out of the obligation by the Colonials. Steve Pettyjohn transferred from Robert Morris to Eastern Michigan and sat out two years ago under the NCAA's guideline for Division I transfers. He missed three games last season.
"He had a high-ankle sprain, but he is back to 100 percent," Boone said of Pettyjohn. "He is a strong rebounder and can help by contributing double figures in scoring. I am expecting big things from him."
Robert Morris coach Mark Schmidt already has gotten big things from Thomas, who scored a school high 38 points on Friday against UMKC.
"Aaron is the type of player when he is open, he will make the shot," Schmidt said. "That's a great way to start the year."
Both coaches said they are approaching this game as just another one on the schedule. Schmidt said he might think differently if he was returning to his former team, Xavier.
Boone said after the game he might feel differently.
"I am sure, after the game, I might have some feelings about it being Robert Morris," Boone said. "During the game, my focus will be on the game. But it will be good to see some familiar faces."
Robert Morris ( 1-0) vs. Eastern Michigan (1-1 )
Eastern Michigan —- Markus Austin, F, 6-6, So.; Ryan Prillman, F, 6-9, Sr.; Steve Pettyjohn, C, 6-9, Sr.; Michael Ross, G, 5-10, So.; Ricky Cottrill, G, 6-3, Jr.