Colonials aim to build off of successful season

At the beginning of the 2011-2012 college basketball season, Robert Morris head coach Andy Toole set a goal for his team to capture the Northeast Conference title and advance to the NCAA tournament.

Although the Colonials were unable to do so, the club did tie numerous program records and won two contests in the College Tournament before falling to Fairfield on March 21.

Despite the fact that the Colonials were not able to participate in the “big dance,” RMU still accepted a post-season bid and guard Velton Jones was just happy that the season was extended. “Everything happens for a reason,’’ stated Jones about the title game loss. “People hadn’t forgotten the championship game, but we were moving on and we were in another tournament.”

According to Toole, being a part of the College Tournament was a “positive experience” for his team. “With the number of guys we have returning, I think that the use of the postseason tournament hopefully will pay dividends for us next year,” explained the second year skipper. “We’re always looking for anything we can to help us improve the program and increase our ability to be successful, and I hope that the [CIT] can do that for us.”

RMU trailed for much of its first matchup in the tournament against the Indiana State Sycamores, but the Colonials were able to use a 16-3 run to come away with the win and faced-off against Toledo four days later.

Although it was the second round of the tournament, the result was the same. The Colonials escaped with a 69-51 win in front of 1321 fans.

“Going to Indiana State and getting to travel together as a team was a great experience. It’s a town that loves basketball,” said Toole. “Toledo wasn’t a great atmosphere but it’s just another opportunity for our guys to go different places, play against different programs and compete against good players.”

It was the quarterfinals at however, when RMU was attempting to break the single-season wins record that proved to be the season-ending contest. Although Fairfield crushed the Colonials hopes of setting a new program record for wins with 27, Toole is hopeful that RMU can continue to be successful in the future if his players begin to work towards improving their weaknesses.

“I want everybody in this program to work every day because if they improve themselves with whatever their deficiencies are, we can come back as a much stronger team,” said Toole. “I want everyone to step up and attack their weaknesses because the stronger the pieces, the stronger the whole.”

Nearly all of Robert Morris’s players will return to the court for the Colonials during the 2012-2013 campaign, with the exception of Lawrence Bridges, who will be graduating, and five players will be entering their senior seasons in the fall. Karon Abraham, RMU’s star guard who was suspended this season, was released from the program six days after the campaign ended due to violations of team policies and will not be suiting up for the Colonials during his junior season.

“In the best interests of our program we’ve decided to dismiss Karon Abraham from the Robert Morris University men’s basketball team,” Toole said in a statement on March 27. “We’re disappointed that Karon will no longer be part of our program, but we hold our student-athletes to extremely high standards, not only on the court but off the court, as well.”

Although RMU was unable to set a program record for wins in a season, Toole was proud of his club’s performance this year.

“I would have been happy for our guys [if we could have won 27 games],” added Toole. “Right now it might not seem important to them, but when you look back on your career, to say that you were a part of a team that tied the wins record in the history of a program is something you can be proud of, especially a program like Robert Morris.”