Still Room to Grow

As I’ve begun to catch up on how the Robert Morris Colonials are doing via NEC Front Row, there’s one player in particular who I’ve focused on, Isaiah Still. Prior to this season, both coaches and players were confident he would step into his own as a sophomore. In many ways Isaiah has probably exceeded those sentiments, and if you’re a Robert Morris fan, there’s still a higher ceiling for him to reach.

Still has great size for a wing player in the Northeast Conference at 6-foot-6, and even at 190 pounds he shouldn’t be overpowered by most perimeter players. He is a very smooth athlete, with a gliding style like a Paul George or Tracy McGrady. When looking to score, Still either attacks the basket or hoists a 3-pointer—an analysts “dream” player in that regard. (All stats from Hoop-Math.com.) He also demonstrates a solid foundation and sound mechanics on his jumper, which holds true in catch-and-shoot situations, and he has improved off the bounce.

Honestly, that’s a lot of offensive tools for a player in the NEC and it has been pretty evident through 12 games of non-conference play. There was always going to be more opportunity with the departure of Rodney Pryor and Elijah Minnie. However, that doesn’t always break in the favor of the incumbent players. In Still’s case, while his shot distribution is very similar to last season, he’s converting at a more efficient rate overall.

Players will obviously struggle going from a team’s third or fourth option to top of the scouting report. It’s perhaps even more challenging in Still’s case, as he’s also needed to become the Colonials most reliable deep threat, mostly out of necessity, after shooting just 29% from beyond the arc as a freshman. With so many eyes on him every time he touches the ball, it’s going to be his ability to play and create off of that attention that will largely dictate how well RMU fares once conference play starts. Let’s take a look at a few examples from their game against the Duquesne Dukes1.

One of the things Still really excels at is catching the ball on the right wing, using a quick jab step or ball fake, and then driving to his left. However, his lack of in-between, scoring game or floater in the lane leads to all-or-nothing decisions at times. This shows up more when a defender is able to slide with Still as he attacks. Ultimately, this leads to a turnover on a pass out to sophomore guard Matty McConnell.

Here, Still attacks from the left wing, but again a defender stays with him and he tries spinning and loses the handle. It doesn’t help that driving the ball means your best 3-pointer shooter is no longer available for a kick out, and while he loses control of the ball quickly, he’s spinning into a defender with the ball in his right hand; his lone out being senior forward Billy Giles.

There certainly were some good moments too.

This was a great sequence because it’s just seconds after the screenshot above. Robert Morris is able to recover the ball and Still is able to drive right down the lane against a defense that is scrambling, and make a really nice pass to senior forward Aaron Tate. Still is going to be able to get to the rim most nights, and being able to make passes like this could be a huge boon for the Colonials—if he can make them consistently.

This last one should really get RMU fans excited. A dribble handoff into a ball screen is the kind of activity head coach Andy Toole loves out of his players. Still goes wide off the screen, bringing two players with him, and correctly finds senior point guard Kavon Stewart wide open in the corner. Making the correct read off of ball screens is a bigger deal than most people think. Furthermore, playing off the fact that teams don’t want him to shoot from beyond the arc is exactly the kind of mentality Still needs to have night in and night out.

That’s a very small sample of how Still’s game has improved and the heights that he could ultimately reach. If he can develop a little more of an in-between game, enough to make the right decisions, it will make Robert Morris all the more dangerous.

1. In the future, it would be great to be able to export this video and clip 5-8 seconds at a time for more context (please Ron!).

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