Monday, March 25, 2013

Now what?

The ride has finally came to its end. The 2012-2013 RMU men's basketball season is over, with the Colonials falling at Providence 77-68. The team finished 24-11, 14-4 in conference, falling in the second round of the NEC tournament to Mount St. Mary's. Of course that led to the defending national champion University of Kentucky Wildcats playing a rare road game in Moon Twp, PA where the Colonials shocked the nation and upset Coach Cal's gang. All that is in the past though. What lies ahead? A lot of question marks, and program altering answers.

(Needs to be said: Thank you to the senior class of Velton Jones, Russell Johnson, Treadwell Lewis and Shane Sweigart, specifically Jones and Johnson. They both had incredible careers at RMU, and put the program on the map with their performances vs Villanova and the win over Kentucky.)

First off, how big was the win over Kentucky? Sure this program has had a ton of success over the past few years; 24 wins (2012-13), 26 (2011-12), 18 (2010-11), 23 (2009-10), 24 (2008-09), 26 (2007-08). That's impressive, but NOTHING gave them the exposure that last Tuesday's win provided. National TV, court storming, epic game. It had it all. Now what will it do for the program?

Can RMU keep its head man?
It all starts up top, and that leads us to question number two, can RMU keep Andy Toole? Toole will be a hot name when it comes to young coaching candidates this off season. I'm not here to discuss where or what it will take RMU to keep him; Chris does that here. If he stays RMU will keep their great recruiting class, continue to build upward, and gets closer to becoming a mid major power. He leaves, and the athletic department will have to find another coach to keep the bus rolling. Two points that I do need to make; one, I will not be in anyway upset at Andy if he moves on. He will get paid a lot more money, move to a program with more resources and likely a better conference. Maybe the biggest reason? He has done his job here at RMU. Sure, he never won an NEC title and never reached the NCAA tournament, but he won 25-26-18 games a year, took the team to two NEC title games, and in the year he didn't reach the title, got the biggest win in program history over UK in the NIT. Job well done. Second, just because he moves on doesn't mean RMU can't continue to grow. Look at VCU. Jeff Capel and Anthony Grant both moved on to bigger programs, and it was Shaka Smart who got VCU over the top. But that's enough about that. If Toole moves on, we can look at potential replacements but until then, lets focus on the program with him in the picture.

RMU will miss Jones and Johnson
but the team is in good hands.
One way to tell you have a great program? When you lose big time seniors/players, and come back just as strong. Sure RMU will miss Jones and Johnson, but the team will still be a major contender in the NEC next year and will be one of the better mid major teams in the country.

Ant Myers-Pate will replace Jones as the #1 point guard, and there will be depth behind him with a great freshman class coming in (we will get to that in a bit). Coron Williams and Karvel Anderson will be seniors, and will give RMU the two best shooters in the conference. To build on that, Anderson will only get better. The last few weeks of the season he became more than just a spot up three point shooter. Not to mention he won't be playing with a broken wrist (we will get to the injuries in a bit too). David Appolon returns as well. If Appolon develops more of an offensive game, he could become Andy Toole's (I hope) most versatile player. He is a tremendous athlete, and maybe the teams best perimeter defender (ask All American PG D.J. Cooper).

A healthy Lijah Thompson will help
RMU immensely next year
Then there are the forwards. This is where I see RMU becoming a better team. Russell Johnson will be very hard to replace, but Andy Toole (again, I REALLY hope) won't have to rely on one player to do it. Lucky Jones might be the teams best player next season. He is a great athlete, and really came into his own this year. He is one step away from becoming a first team NEC caliber player. Mike McFadden should be back for his senior year. He battled knee injuries all season, and it really bothered him. McFadden was extremely explosive in the NIT when he had ample time to rest before games. If he can stay healthy, watch out. He improved his free throw shooting this season, and showed flashes of being a go-to low post threat. The difference maker could be senior Lijah Thompson. Thompson missed the whole season with a torn ACL, but is making good progress and should be back next year. With him in the fold, RMU has a true center, and a guy who can control the glass, along with protect the rim (something the team sorely missed once Vaughn Morgan left the program). Stephan Hawkins should be back, along with Keith Armstrong to provide good depth. Hawkins is a raw prospect but with a full season under his belt, could become a big threat. Armstrong battled injuries all year, and never got into the mix as a legit option for Andy Toole. That should change next year as he will have a full off season to improve his game.

Speaking of injuries, can this team really have the luck (or should I say BAD luck) that it did this year going forward? Thompson missed the whole year, Anderson played through a broken wrist for over a month, Velton Jones got a head injury, and missed time with a nasty shoulder injury (and played with it for multiple games), Armstrong had a foot injury that cost him 2/3 of the year and his whole off season, McFadden battled bad knee injuries all season, Johnson battled back injuries early in the season, and Myers Pate had a nasty ankle injury in December (take a breath). Yikes! I'm sure they will battle injuries next year, after all every team will, but will there be that many?

Worthem could be a huge get for Andy Toole.
Assuming Andy sticks around (by the way, I think RMU does everything in its power to do so) he will bring in a GREAT recruiting class, maybe his best ever. Toole is known around the country as a great recruiter and this class is evidence of that. Kavon Stewart highlights the class. He is a 3 star prospect from nationally ranked Hudson Catholic in New Jersey. Stewart is a pure passing point guard much like Ant Myers-Pate. According to, he got offers from Cincinnati, UMASS, Seton Hall, Rutgers while gaining interest from other big schools. Britton Lee and Jeremiah Worthem come in from Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School in Philadelphia. Their school is one of the best in the state, ranked in the top 10 for much of the season. Lee is more of a scoring guard and could be an explosive scorer for Andy Toole. He can really attack the basket. Both Lee and Stewart are known for their lock down D, something all guards need when playing at RMU. Worthem could be the star of the class. He is a 6'6'' bouncy forward who can score from all over the floor. According to rivals he received offers from Temple and La Salle, and got interest from Pitt and Villanova. He is also a 3 star. Rounding out the class is 6'7'' forward Emmanuel Omogbo from Princeton Day Academy in Maryland. He is a bit more unknown, but adds nice size down the road. Max Preps list him as RMU's top recruit (though I lean more toward Rivals).

With that class, the team should look something like this assuming nobody transfers and the recruits remain committed.

1) Myers Pate- Stewart/Lee (One may red shirt)
2) Anderson-Williams-Appolon
3) Jones-Worthem
4) McFadden-Hawkins-Omogbo
5) Thompson-Armstrong

Myers Pate, Anderson, Williams, McFadden, and Thompson will all be seniors. Andy Toole will certainly have options.

Some other questions that RMU will have to answer: Can they upgrade the facilities? The Chuck isn't exactly state of the art. Can they attract big time programs to play in Moon? Tough to get teams like Ohio (forget about UK) to schedule a series. What about the NEC? The conference is losing two big time programs in Monmouth and Quinnipiac, might the Colonials look for an upgrade too?

There is no doubt that RMU has had tons of success over the past six seasons. My ultimate question is this....Was the Kentucky win the start of RMU's next big step in its quest to become a great mid major basketball program, or was it the climax of this era of RMU hoops? Only time will tell.

--Lee Kunkel

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