In what seems to be a never end series of crippling blows to Robert Morris, sophomore guard Dachon Burke has requested his release from the program. The news was first reported by Omari Sankofa II of the Post-Gazette.
So… here we go again, huh? This marks four consecutive years where Robert Morris has lost its top player to transfer. In 2015 it was Marcquise Reed (Clemson). In 2016, Rodney Pryor opted to use his grad transfer to head to Georgetown. In 2017 it was Isaiah Still (Iona). And now, Burke.
Three of those four players led the team in scoring – and the only guy who didn’t, Reed, was the best of the bunch.
We’ve talked ad nauseam about the effect transfers have had on this program, and I have some more thoughts on this below, but first let’s focus on Burke and what this means for Robert Morris.
Burke, who will have two years of eligibility remaining, led Robert Morris in points (17.6), was tied for second in 3-point shooting (33.8 percent), was third in rebounds (5.8) and was a defensive force on the perimeter. His highlight play – a block on NEC Player of the Year Junior Robinson to seal a NEC quarterfinals win – was just the tip of the iceberg. He was very much in the conversation for NEC Defensive Player of the Year and was part of a hellish defensive duo with fellow guard Matty McConnell.
The jump Burke made from his freshman to sophomore year was really incredible. It’s the thing that happens in special players. Burke was a great defender as a sophomore and a questionable offensive player. This season, he came into the year with a full offensive repertoire. He was bigger, stronger and quicker. His 3-point percentage increased despite being the focal point of opposing teams’ game plans. And he added a devastating mid-range step-back jumper. All of this happened just from his freshman to sophomore year.
Robert Morris needed Burke after Still’s transfer. I thought McConnell would naturally become the go-to guy going into this year, but Burke dominated.
I’m intrigued to see where Burke ends up at. The jump he made from freshman to sophomore year has to provide serious intrigue to Power 5 coaches. The NEC also has a pretty strong track record of players jumping from the NEC to larger schools:
-Cane Broome (Sacred Heart) transferred to Cincinnati and put up 51/39/70 splits in his first season.
-Matt Mobley (CCSU) was the second-leading scorer at St. Bonaventure, another NCAA Tournament team, at 18.1 ppg.
-Marcquise Reed (Robert Morris) led Clemson in scoring at 15.9 ppg.
-Elijah Minnie (Robert Morris) led Eastern Michigan in scoring (16.8 ppg), blocks (1.9) and was second in rebounds. Recently declared for the NBA Draft but did not hire an agent.
-Marques Townes (FDU) averages 11 ppg on 51/38/72 splits for a Loyola Chicago team making a Cinderella run through the NCAA Tournament.
You can also add Nura Zanna (LIU) to that lost if you want, who averaged 14.7 minutes for Houston.
These, of course, are the extremely positive examples of only high-end players who have proven success for mid-major and power conferences. For every Cane Broome, there are guys like BK Ashe and Charles Glover, who both transferred from Mount St. Mary’s to Longwood. The Lancers went 7-26 in the Big South this season.
We’ll get a better look at more NEC players next season:
Quicny McKnight (Sacred Heart à Seton Hall), Josh Nebo (St. Francis PA à Texas A&M), Elijah Long (Mount St. Mary’s à Texas), Miles Wilson (Mount St. Mary’s à Miami), Corey Henson (Wagner à Nevada), Nirse Zouzoua (Bryant à Nevada).
My personal feeling is: If Cane Broome can thrive at Cincinnati, what’s to stop Burke from thriving at a similar school? Like Broome, I think an AAC school could be in play. His potential is through the roof. At the very least, Burke should be an impact perimeter defender. The year off required for a transfer will give him a chance to get accustomed to high-level basketball.
It’s also worth noting: Requesting a release does not 100 percent mean Burke is leaving. Elijah Minnie tested the waters as a freshman but returned to Robert Morris (before transferring again). However, if Burke did return, then decided to transfer after next season, he would only have one year of eligibility remaining. It seems very unlikely he returns.
So, a few things to unpack here: This puts Robert Morris in a hole entering the 2018-19 season. Again, they’ll need to not only replace their leading scorer, but an elite defender capable of playing several positions.
There is some good news: If this offseason shakes out as planned, Robert Morris is probably in a better position to reload than usual. Jon Williams is a promising freshman point guard whose brother, Josh, transferred in from Akron. Josh was a very good 3-point shooter as a sophomore at Akron (66-184, 35 percent). The Williams brothers, paired with McConnell, makes for a potentially lethal backcourt trio. NEC Freshman of the Year Koby Thomas is also expected to return. His offensive game has a long way to go, but the potential and athleticism is through the roof.
I would anticipate a few more transfers – including freshman point guard Leondre Washington, who left the team near the end of the season. According to verbal commits, Robert Morris only has two commitments for next season: Point guard Greg Shead and forward Atem Bior. My inkling is that walk-on Seth Rouse will get rewarded a scholarship next season, but Andy Toole & Co. have some work to do. They’re already late in the game when it comes to recruiting for players next season. The year-to-year roster uncertainty must be frustrating, but Toole has done a very good job of finding impact players.
This will inevitably bring up another discussion among fans about Toole and transfers. We’ll save that for another time.