Robert Morris has eight new players on this year’s roster. Like all teams with that amount of turnover, there’s going to be a learning curve with playing in a new system with new teammates.
It won’t just be a learning curve for the players. The coaching staff is going to have the difficult job of finding who to play, and when. Penning down bench rotations and crunch time minutes isn’t easy; as proof, consider that both David Appolon and Stephan Bennett both started nine and seven games, respectively, last season. Nine different Colonials made up different forms of a starting lineup last year.
So it won’t be easy, but based off what we know now, let’s project a few different lineups that could become consistent over the year.
Stewart-McConnell-Pryor-Minnie-Tate: This might not happen to start the season, as Aaron Tate could miss a few games after a lower leg surgery. When Tate does come back, there’s the possibility he comes back on a minutes limit. Conditioning could be an issue.
With all that being said, I do think he’ll come back to anchoring the middle of the defense. It’s hard to describe exactly how much he brings; I guess a good place to start is a team-high in offensive rebounding percentage and a willingness to play center despite his 6-foot-5 frame.
I do think freshman Matty McConnell starts at shooting guard. He did during the scrimmage, and put on a performance to go with it. RMU’s offense really struggled in the early going last season, so anyone who can bring that type of presence will see the floor.
If I was a betting man, and I’m not, I think this is the lineup that logs the most minutes together over the course of a season.
First off the bench
Isaiah Still, Steven Whitley, Andre Frederick: The thing that will probably stand out with these guys is athleticism and versatility. The sense I get is Whitley is more of a slasher offensively and Still can maybe shoot a little more. Both are really good athletes and have the versatility to play almost anywhere in the zone defense. Still is supposed to be a really good rebounder, so I would guess he plays more on the bottom of the zone a la Lucky Jones.
All of the big men are going to get their chance to earn minutes. With Tate banged up, Frederick likely starts/gets a lot of minutes at center for the opener. That’s my guess, but I wouldn’t put it past Toole to move over Elijah Minnie and give some of those athletic wings more minutes. Either way, if Frederick can provide any sort of consistency, he brings good minutes as a shot blocker and a decent low-post scoring option.
Kavon-Still-Pryor-Minnie-Tate: Whitley and a big (Giles?) might prove to be worth crunch time minutes, but I really trust this bunch. Pryor might not have the reputation as some of those other guys, but he is long and has super active hands.
As you can probably tell, I’m getting really excited about Still and Whitley. I put Still in this rotations simply because he’s longer and has more of a defensive reputation, but I think both guys understand defense gets and keeps you on the court. I both expect them to make immediate impacts for this reason only.
McConnell-Pryor-Still-Minnie-Tate: This is great. In Pryor, you might have the best shooter in the conference. McConnell can shoot it and dish it, and play a little PnR action with Minnie. I’m amazed with how many teams would leave Minnie alone and double the ball handler in pick and roll last year. He led the team in three point shooting percentage!
Lester-Johnson-Pugh-Stephens-Hugley: The lineup to put in when you’re either up or down by 30 points. Conrad Stephens is obviously going to get all the hype, as he should. He’s no Treadwell Lewis, but I can appreciate anyone who makes the jump from IM all-star to Division I walk-on. It can’t be a glorious jump.
Some background about the other guys: Nate Johnson is a 5-foot-11 guard who played high school ball with Still. Anthony Pugh is listed at 5-foot-8, 150 pounds. He’s from Ohio and is a sports management major. That’s all that’s listed on the RMU website. Joe Hugley set his high school’s single-season shot block record (88).
I’ve also heard on good authority that Jordan Lester is having a REALLY good camp and will legitimately see backup point guard minutes. Not like it can be much worse than Jafar Kinsey last season.
That’s about all I have for now. I’m sure this article will look really dumb by next week when none of this happens.