Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Newcomers Must Bolster Veteran Core

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Newcomers Must Bolster Veteran Core

Article excerpt

A certain sense of uncertainty lingers around Robert Morris as it prepares to open its 2014-15 season Friday against Lafayette.

Thanks to National Invitation Tournament victories against Kentucky and St. John's in consecutive years, people well beyond Western Pennsylvania know about the Colonials. But with more than half of the roster comprised of players who were not at the school this time last year, it's fair to ask how much is known about their current group.

For all the doubt that comes with a new cast of athletes, there's also a level of familiarity. After all, it wasn't long ago they had to deal with a similar problem.

Last season, the same questions dogged Robert Morris, which had seven newcomers joining six returning players. That uneasiness ultimately turned into a first-place finish in the Northeast Conference and a run that came one game short of its first NCAA tournament berth since 2010.

This year, the numbers of newcomers and returnees are the same, but will the result be?

"I think there's a different personality between this year's group and last year's group," coach Andy Toole said. "It's not entirely true, but comparing last year's new group to this year's new group, a lot of the guys in this year's group are picking things up a little quicker and understanding what's being asked of them a little more. That's allowed us to improve more.

"Last year, at this time, I felt like we were beating our heads against the wall and doing the same stuff every day. I still want more consistency and intensity from this new group, but I think in terms of understanding general principles and plays, I think they've been a little more receptive to what we've been asking them to do."

Toole has the added benefit that his returning players have plenty of experience. After a rash of suspensions and defections last season, every player back with the Colonials averaged at least 15 minutes per game.

Joining those players is an intriguing and promising group of freshmen and junior-college transfers. On a traditionally guard- oriented team in a conference largely devoid of elite big men, Robert Morris' 2014 class is perhaps defined by its length, as four players 6 feet 8 or taller join a squad that had only one player taller than 6-6. …

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