In worrisome season of regression, Charles Bain keeps getting better

By @C_Cappella

Robert Morris head coach Andy Toole put his faith in sophomore Charles Bain. His faith has been well rewarded.

The second-year forward from the Bahamas – somewhat surprisingly – opened the season as the team’s starting center. With returning options like Malik Petteway, Chris Coalmon and David Cole, plus newcomers like Yannis Mendy and Cameron Wilbon, it’s Bain who has held onto the starting five spot.

And in a season where we’ve seen regression from sophomores Jon Williams and Koby Thomas, it’s Bain who has impressed.

The sophomore has seen an uptick in usage. According to KenPom’s percentage of possession used (which reflects how often a possession ends with a player making a shot, missing a shot or committing a turnover), Bain’s usage has jumped five percentage points, from 20.6 to 25.2 percent. That is narrowly a team high.

Raise your hand if you thought Charles Bain would lead the team in usage?

Yeah, didn’t think so, but Bain has really jumped out. Typically, a player’s numbers will dip when they take on a larger role. More volume opens the door for lower percentages. But that isn’t really the case for Bain. His 3-point percentage has dipped from 33.8 to 28.9 percent, but he’s attempting and making more 2-point field goals (up to 47 percent, compared to 42 percent from last year). He’s also drawing more fouls and converting from the line. Bain took 40 free throws all last season. This year he’s 17 of 24, good for a 70.8 percent clip.

Bain’s assist rate is up (from 3.3 to 5.7) and turnover rate is down (from 27.3 to 19.3). He is committing less fouls per 40 minutes despite playing more. His defensive rebounding percentage of 18.2 is way up from last year’s 10.5. All told, Bain is being asked to do more, and responding.

It’s a huge credit to the second-year forward, who clearly worked hard on his game this offseason. It’s also a credit to Toole and his staff for developing Bain and trusting him to do the things they need down low. There are elements of his game that were just not there last season. Like most freshman, Bain was extremely inconsistent. That’s still a problem, but becoming less of one.

It’s easy to forget, but this is exactly what we expect to happen with young players. Robert Morris has not had reaped the rewards of developing young players. Some leave to transfer up and others leave because of fit. It’s been a long time since RMU has developed – and then kept – a role player. Obviously we cannot predict what Bain’s future at Robert Morris is. But this is promising.

When the Colonials were at the peak of their powers, it wasn’t just because a top-end player like Velton Jones stuck around. It was because the program developed David Appolon, Keith Armstrong and Aaron Tate. Its role players that develop a team’s true identity and character.

So, a lot of good news on Bain’s front. His progress is encouraging and I do think his 3-point shooting will improve as the competition lessens in conference play.

With all that being said, Bain’s jump from his freshman to sophomore year is even more noticeable because of the lack of progression from other players on the team.

Koby Thomas, the reigning NEC Rookie of the Year, is shooting at a gross 43.6/15.4/52.4 clip. While he is making an impact on the glass and looks better defensively, that’s not going to get it done. Thomas didn’t look comfortable as a scorer last season, but he still made an impact and could knock down the occasional jumper.

I am concerned about Thomas’ regression. He has the athleticism to play on any level but this team – which ranks 334th in offensive efficiency – needs him to score at least at the clip he did last season. This team needs him to be an All-NEC talent either this year or down the line (and we know how dangerous it is to assume guys will stay for four years). Right now, Thomas looks more like David Appolon than Lucky Jones. There is nothing wrong with that on the right team. In fact, Appolon was one of my favorite players to watch in his four years. But Appolon was a role player on a championship team. I think the program expected – and needs more – from Thomas.

The same goes from Jon Williams, who was spectacular last season for a freshman. I really do not know what to make of this. I wish I had some sort of arm-chair analysis, but I don’t. Williams has not seen a large uptick in usage to throw skew his shooting numbers. They just simply aren’t good and he doesn’t look comfortable. Williams was a 43 percent 3-point shooter last season. He’s at 27 percent right now. He’s attempted just eight 2-point shots. His assist rate has jumped to 25 percent but his turnover rate is still at 33 percent. His 48 assists to 28 turnovers simply is not good enough. RMU just needs average offense to win games, and they’re not getting it.

Of course, assigning the blame on two players – especially two young players – is overly-critical and unfair. That was not the point of singling out Thomas and Williams. The root of RMU’s issues dive deeper then that.

The context is to show that Bain’s progress – and the extent of his progress – is great news. But it’s not doing RMU a whole lot of good if the rest of the team is not progressing with him. The Colonials have just two games remaining in non-conference play at the wildest ends of the spectrum. Friday night is a contest at Louisville before returning home against Hood. Outside of Bain, it’s hard to say Robert Morris looks any better now than they did in the season opener at USC.

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