Like many teams in the NEC, the Robert Morris roster that will take the floor this Friday to start its season will look vastly different than the potential one. While every school loses players to graduation, mid-majors frequently lose some of their best young players to another program in a more “competitive” conference. Last year, Robert Morris could have returned a roster that included 2015 NEC Rookie of the Year, Marcquise Reed; he’s now a Clemson Tiger. All-conference performer Rodney Pryor could have opted to return for his final season of eligibility with the Colonials, but he is now a member of the Georgetown Hoyas as a graduate transfer.
There’s a lot of “what ifs?” when it comes to RMU hoops. Has there been a more impactful group of loses in the conference than those in Moon Township, PA? The loss of Reed probably trumps all of them sans Sacred Heart losing Cane Broome; he was the 2016 NEC Player of the Year, after all.
Take Pryor out of the equation, as it was unlikely that he would have forfeited his right to play immediately for another program as a graduate transfer. Robert Morris could have started a forward tandem of Elijah Minnie (Eastern Michigan) and Jeremiah Worthem (Mansfield by way of North Carolina Central) this season. While Minnie’s career never took the turn some expected after strong play to close the 2014-2015 campaign, Worthem was just beginning to scratch the surface of his talent as a positive contributor and a true freshman on that memorable 2013-2014 team.
A starting five consisting of senior point guard Kavon Stewart, Reed, sophomore wing Isaiah Still (he’s probably breaking out this year), Minnie (this likely would be senior forward Aaron Tate), and Worthem would be quite the force in the NEC. With sophomore guard Matty McConnell on board, it would be very difficult for former guards Jafar Kinsey, Jairus Lyles, and Steven Whitley to crack this speculative rotation. Not to mention any the incoming players this season. Same goes for forward Andre Frederick, who likely would not have seen very many minutes with a forward rotation consisting of Minnie, Tate, and Worthem with the option to go small with Still playing at the four.
It’s not a stretch to assume that the Colonials could have gone on a run similar to LIU Brooklyn’s between 2011 and 2013. However, I don’t think RMU is going to complain with the run they made in 2013-2014 given they had just eight active players by the end of the year, or the run to the NCAA tournament the following year.
This, of course, isn’t just an RMU issue. Sacred Heart would have happily find room to fit Broome into their current roster. Mount St. Mary’s would probably welcome back guard BK Ashe from Longwood, and the same could be said about the Central Connecticut and guard Matt Mobley, who is now at St. Bonaventure.
While it’s somewhat entertaining to play the “what if” game in terms of player movement, even with that speculative roster, nothing is guaranteed and Robert Morris has accomplished a lot over the last four season. As the Colonials and the other nine teams open their seasons, it’s not about what could have been, it’s about what still could be.