Robert Morris has what it takes to compete in its first year in the Horizon League
One year removed from their first conference tournament title since 2015, Robert Morris returns a chunk of its core as it prepares to compete in the Horizon League for the first time.
Robert Morris will have to overcome the loss of Josh Williams, who graduated and took his 101 made 3-pointers out the door with him. Also not returning are guard Sayveon McEwen (graduation), guard Jalen Hawkins (transfer) and forward Yannis Mendy (graduation). All told, those players contributed toward 56 percent of the team’s 3-point totals. Last season, 3-pointers made up 35 percent of RMU’s total scoring, 65th in the country. This was a team that used ball movement (the Colonials ranked second nationally in assists to field goals made) to get the ball to capable 3-point scorers.
Now, the question is, how much can they replicate last season’s team identity and how much will need reworked?
Andy Toole teams have had a propensity to start slow. Some of that definitely relates to punching up their weight, continually playing a tough non-conference schedule. But it also goes deeper than that. It sometimes takes Toole a month-plus to find the guys he needs in a rotation and for players to understand (and be satisfied with) their roles. With the extraordinary circumstances surrounding this season, that could wind up very detrimental to the Colonials.
The frontcourt depth might be the most interesting storyline heading into the new season. Yannis Mendy settled into one of the NEC’s best rebounders and most efficient low-block scorers last season. It’s worth noting he was also the team’s biggest player. Sophomore Olisa Ngonadi can replicate his length (and then some, with a 6-foot-8 frame and incredible wingspan) but has to learn to play in control. He was extremely raw last season.
Kam Farris – Perhaps the most exciting recruit in Andy Toole’s most recent class, Ferris has the ability to contribute right away as a combo-guard who can handle the ball and knock down shots from deep. Ferris also has the advantage of joining the team in January of 2020, giving him a leg-up on other incoming freshmen. Ferris averaged nearly 23 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists at Rice Memorial, perhaps the most dominant basketball program in Vermont.
Tyson Brown – Standing at 6-foot-9, Brown is certainly going to have the opportunity to contribute right away following the departure of starting forward Yannis Mendy. Hailing from Massanutten Military Academy, Brown averaged nearly 14 points and 9 rebounds per game as a senior. Brown isn’t going to stretch the floor. If given the opportunity, he will be asked to clean up the boards and provide occasional scoring on the block to keep defenses honest.
Enoch Cheeks – Cheeks isn’t going to blow anyone away with his offensive game. Instead, the 6-foot-3, 180 pound guard is a defense-first player that is exactly the type of player that Andy Toole will look to get on the floor early in the season.
Trayden Williams – Williams is a true point guard who, according to the team website, can “knock down the open shot and convert from anywhere on the floor.” Williams is relatively undersized (6-foot-2, 170 pounds) and may be pressed for playing time with a plethora of talented, experienced guards ahead of him.
Pat Suemnick – A late add to Andy Toole’s recruiting class, Suemnick may be more of a developmental piece this season. Scouts rave about his motor. Again, in a front court with limited experience, the big body of Suemnick (6-foot-8, 220 pounds) could see some minutes because of his motor.
Jon Williams – Williams is a true point guard with a great ability to knock down the 3-point shot, but he won’t force it. Williams shot 39.6% from the 3-point line last year, with all but 14 of his shots coming from long range.
Dante Treacy – Treacy went from a fine rotational piece as a freshman to the conference tournament MVP as a sophomore. His transformation was one of the most impressive in the Andy Toole era. The key to Treacy’s game doesn’t lie in volume, it lies in shot selection. He has a diverse game and is a high-percentage finisher at the rim. There were times last year where Robert Morris was too content to settle for the 3. Treacy attacking the rim even more frequently could open up shots for Williams and incoming freshman Kam Farris.
Cameron Wilbon – Wilbon missed the 2019-20 campaign with a wrist injury. Wilbon showed solid development in his shooting as a freshman but his real strength lies as a defender. Wilbon is a very solid defender who has the ability to switch fairly freely.
AJ Bramah – Bramah was one of the NEC’s top players one season ago because of his uber-athleticism and high motor. Bramah’s length is a problem on the offensive and defensive glass, he has nice touch around the rim, can run the floor and is a solid defensive player on the low block with the ability to handle guards on a switch.
Charles Bain – Bain will look to bounce back from a bad shooting year as a junior. The 6-foot-8 Bain shoot 35 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore and was one of the most efficient scorers in the NEC in 2018-19, but knocked down just 25 percent of his 3-point shots last season. Someone will have to replace some of Josh Williams’ 3-point shooting. Of the returning players, Bain fits the bill. Due to his size and quickness, Bain was also one the best defender of wing players in the NEC last season.
What an interesting 2020-21 season Robert Morris fans have in store. Despite winning a conference title one season ago, there’s no title to defend. There’s no regularly anticipated matchups with St. Francis PA, LIU or Mount St. Mary’s. This will all be new. What won’t be new for Colonial fans, however, is the team in the uniform. Yes, RMU lost some core pieces to last year’s team, but they return more than most.
For Andy Toole-led teams, it begins in the backcourt. Both Jon Williams and Dante Treacy are more than capable 3-point shooters, knocking down 39.7 and 40.4 percent of their shoots from beyond the arc, respectively.
The Colonials are more than capable of being contenders year one in the Horizon League. With that being said, they lost to UIC, Cleveland State and Youngstown State and there may not be a non-conference season to work out the kinks.
Defense will always come first. Based on past experience and the pure she and athleticism at the forward position, this year’s club truly has the makeup to be the best defensive team Toole has coached.
Robert Morris has what it takes to finish in the top half of the league. If a few things break their way, they could compete with the likes of Wright State.
Prediction: 3rd Place