Keeping stock in David Cole island

By @C_Cappella

College basketball permits a player to foul five times before taking a permanent seat on the bench. I bring this up because David Cole doesn’t waste much time using them.

Cole – a redshirt freshman forward – has the highest fouls committed/per 40 minutes on the team by a wide margin. According to KenPom, Cole is committing a foul nearly every four minutes of game action.

Cole opened the season as a starter, playing 19, 16, 19, 12, 22 and 22 minutes respectively in the team’s first six games. Also during that time frame, Cole committed no less than four fouls in all but one game while fouling out against Grand Canyon.

(Which, ironically, was maybe his best performance of the season. He nabbed four offensive rebounds.)

Cole’s playing time dwindled for a few reasons following that stretch. It was clear Malik Petteway was RMU’s best big man. He had a true inside presence, both as a scorer and rebounder. Petteway’s performances warranted more playing time, so that’s what he got.

Cole also couldn’t stop fouling, which is bad for a number of reasons that don’t really need to be explained.

But now, Petteway is out indefinitely with a “lower body injury.” He hasn’t played in seven of the last eight games – it’s unclear when/if he’ll even return. That’s opened the door for Ronnie Gombe to start and for Cole to work his way back into the rotation.

There’s nothing that has really stood out about Cole outside of his foul rate. He’s most effective taking only two-to-three shots per game and his rebounding percentages are pretty marginal.

But I was glad to see Cole get 19 minutes in Thursday’s victory at Sacred Heart. Head coach Andy Toole stressed the importance of remaining more disciplined on the defensive end, and I thought Cole – along with the rest of his teammates – did a good job of that.

The fact that nothing has really stood out about Cole’s thing isn’t really a negative. It’s easy to forget that he’s just a redshirt freshman.

We – meaning Robert Morris fans – are accustomed to players bouncing from the program who don’t get the minutes they feel they deserve. I think that’s one of the reasons Cole isn’t talked about much. When I look at Cole, I see a player who could progress into a really solid piece in the coming years. This kid still has three more years of development.

RMU’s recent struggle with transfers – and the impact its had on the program – has been well documented. But don’t forget: Petteway is a junior and Gombe is a grad transfer. Chris Coalmon and Charles Bain are both freshmen but don’t necessarily have the traditional body types of centers capable of defending the low post. I think there are spots where Bain and Coalmon can play the five – but probably not for extremely long stretches.

That will always leave a role etched out for Cole. Now, can he develop to the point where he grabs it and never lets go? We’re a long way from finding out.

But this is, after all, a player who took a redshirt year to lose 60 pounds and transform his body from an offensive guard to middle linebacker. That’s step one. In an ideal world, Cole’s role this season would be about 10 minutes a game with Petteway taking the bulk of minutes. But this isn’t an ideal world. Cole is going to have to step up.

Cole has played defense more with his hands than his feet. That’s what is leading to some of the foul trouble. As his body comes along, so should his lateral quickness.

The redshirt freshman has played 17 and 19 minutes, respectively, over his last two games. His biggest test yet will be against Wagner, the team with the NEC’s best offensive rebounding percentage.

Don’t sell your stock on David Cole island. He’s still a developing big man that will play a crucial role on this year’s team and for years to come.

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