Robert Morris will make its long-awaited debut Tuesday night against Saint Vincent College at the Sewall Center.
Aaron Tate will have to wait a bit longer.
Given Tate will be sidelined 2-to-3 weeks after undergoing surgery for a lower body injury, frountcourt minutes will be vacant as the Colonials see game action for the first time this year.
Stephan Bennett and Leo Gomis both unexpectedly left the team before the season.
Andre Frederick, Billy Giles and Joe Hugley are the next three up off the bench. The exhibition opener will give them each an early opportunity for expanded floor time.
“They’ve all been able to get a lot of reps early in practice which has been great, and good, situational reps,” Head Coach Andy Toole said. “We’ve tried to put them into positions they’re going to face in live play. I think they’ve learned a lot from it.”
Giles may be the most intriguing option of the trio. He brings a physical presence down low that can score and rebound, a relieving change of pace from the fadeaway jumpers of Stephan Bennett. At 24 years old, he’s the old man on the Robert Morris roster, and has both the physical skill set and mental maturity needed to play in Toole’s system.
“You definitely have to stay hungry [playing for Toole],” Giles said. “You have to go at it each and every day and take every opportunity you can get to get better. The work is hard, but you feel the difference when you start playing.”
Toole called Tate the Colonials’ “stabilizing force” at NEC Social Media Day, and they’ll need someone to pick up the slack in his absence.
“It gets me reps with the starting lineup in practice,” Giles said. “I get to show what I can do with that lineup. If [Tate] needs a break, I can definitely step in. I’m trying to learn both the four and five spot. Any position I can learn that will get me on the floor.”
Giles averaged 23.6 points and 14.9 rebounds at Allegany College of Maryland last year and could be next in the line of JUCO transfers behind Tate and Rodney Pryor to sustain quality careers at Robert Morris. From observing practice, he noticeably runs the floor better than Tate. If Giles can prove to remain consistent on the glass, he’d likely form a sound combination alongside a slashing-type forward in Elijah Minnie.
“The intensity is way higher than the junior college I was at before. Everything’s a competition,” Giles said. “The transition is going good. Personally, I think I’m doing well keeping up with the guys. Always running, for sure.
“Rebounding the ball is what I need to excel at. Running down the floor, getting ahead of the pack. Getting quick transition buckets out in front.”
Pryor had a coming-out party in Robert Morris’ exhibition matchup against Mansfielda year ago, posting 20 points, eight rebounds and five steals in his first game out of junior college. On Tuesday night, Giles will have a chance to do the same.
“We’re trying to figure out who we can rely on to be in the right spot to execute offense, to execute defense, who’s going to try and take the details from the practice setting and into the game,” Toole said, “and not just resort to whatever they did in high school or previously.”