It would probably be wrong of me to not start this article out by saying "ho ho ho, merry christmas!!" It's that time of the year where everyone is happy and getting along, especially when it comes to kids because, like we all once were, we were on our best behavior around the holiday season (I still am). Santa has decided who made the naughty and nice list, and who gets presents, and who gets coal. I got everything I wanted and I couldn't be happier. I'm sure before the college season was underway, the Colonials imagined themselves in a better position than where they currently stand. I wonder what Andy Toole and his team asked for christmas? Perhaps more wins? That would be great, but slow down! Before you start winning, you have to have a certain level of trust. You have to trust your coaches, your teammates, and most importantly, you have to trust yourself and your ability to play the game. We haven't seen that from every player thus far, and the Colonials have battled a mixture of poor play, inconsistency and health. I am not going to use injuries as an excuse because every team has injuries during the course of the season and Robert Morris has been in position to win a lot of the games they lost. With conference play approaching, the Colonials will have a chance to have a clean slate. But they must improve. Can santa help? What should each player have asked for christmas? Let's take a look:
G Kavon Stewart: Consistent free-throw shooting. As poorly as Stewart has played in certain games this year, he still has shown a strong ability to get to the free throw line. He's shooting only 52% from the charity stripe this season. At this point, we know what we're going to get with him shooting wise. With that being said, it's great that he is able to draw fouls, and if his free-throw percentage can increase, it will only help him and his team. If Stewart can come out and show the opposition that he's a legit free-throw shooter, players will start to take him more seriously and he'll give his team an advantage down the stretch if he can produce in crunch time.
G Matty McConnell: More shot attempts. McConnell was a flat out scorer in high school and so far, he has only taken 51 shot attempts this season. 43 of those shot attempts have been from beyond the arc and he's just shy of shooting 33% from three. He has had games where he's made an impact spacing the floor, but Matty has also had games where he's made very little impact. I would like to see him be more aggressive and penetrate on offense. He has good court vision, so he'll have options and the opportunity to create off the dribble. We all know he has the ability to score from anywhere on the court, so hopefully we'll see more of that post-christmas time.
G Isaiah Still: Drive to the basket. Santa needs to tell Isaiah Still to drive and get inside because he, already as a freshman, showed how lethal he is when driving to the hoop. Still isn't a bad shooter, but he needs to use his skill of beating defenders off the dribble because the more scoring he can do, the better! Clearly the loss of Marcquise Reed has been felt and Still is just a piece of the puzzle of replacing Reed's scoring ability.
G Steve Whitley: Whitley started out very slow, but as of late, I think he figured out how he could help this team. Defense, hustle and doing the little things on both ends of the floor. He isn't a great shooter and has been limited offensively so far, and he really found his niche about four games ago when he figured out his niche. If he can keep doing the dirty work, his playing time will increase more and more. He reminds me of a young David Appolon. Appolon never was an option on offense until his junior year, but always played great defense. If Whitley can grow into what Appolon was, I think he will have a successful tenure in this program. As far as what Santa is bringing him...I would say dancing shoes. The kid is full of energy and loves to dance, just watch his 'Meet the Colonials' intro video.
G/F Rodney Pryor: Help from his teammates and less turnovers. Pryor is turning the ball over 3.4 times a game. If he wants to have a chance to play in the NBA, those numbers have to go down. He had six turnovers at Duquesne and already has 41 total turnovers. Pryor only had 50 last season, so he will have to cut down on the turnovers. I feel like he has tried to do too much at times, and maybe he has, which brings me to my next point. I don't think anyone has a problem with Pryor handling the ball as much as he does because of the players around him. Can santa please bring this man from help! His teammates are struggling. Pryor is doing everything he can, but he can only do so much. If the Colonials want to have any chance of competing in the NEC, guys besides Rodney Pryor have to step up!
F Andre Frederick: If you were santa, what would you bring snowcone? I would give him so friggggggin confidence!! At times, Dre DOMINATES offensively in practice. I'm serious. He has very good post moves, but in games, he hasn't even showed half of what he can do. It's frustrating. It has to be from a lack of confidence. He's careless with the ball and often looks intimidated. If Frederick can bring some confidence off the bench, the Colonials will be in great shape because he really is a versatile player that can bring a lot to the table offensively and defensively.
F Billy Giles: Height! Santa needs to give Billy like four or five more inches so he can shoot up to seven feet. He'd be unstoppable. But in all seriousness, if Giles was a little taller, he'd be a stud offensively. After taking a couple of games to adjust to the college level, he has found his role on this team. He is a very good rebounder for his size and his offensive game is increasing each time he steps out on the floor. He will play a vital role in repeating as NEC champs.
F Elijah Minnie: Consistency. Elijah Minnie, at times, has dominated offensively for the Colonials. He lit up New Mexico State, a perennial tournament team. He can shoot, drive, play defense and block shots. Minnie can do it all. However, sometimes it feels like it's all or nothing with him. You either get a really big game, or you don't get much production. Even if it isn't a 20 point hight, a 12 point, 9 rebound game would benefit probably more than most people think. Minnie can alter shots just from using his size and athleticism. If he can have an affect like that on every game, the better off this team will be.
Aaron Tate and Jordan Lester are still out with an injury or illness. I would expect to see them both back by conference play. We all know what Tate can do. The Colonials need him badly! When he is playing with high energy, he's rebounding, getting steals and trust me, he makes a difference. Lester has done a nice job filling in for Kavon Stewart as his backup, and with Stewart struggling, a healthy Lester will be a very valuable piece to Andy Toole. So we hope santa brings them to full strength health wise ASAP! As far as Joe Hugley, he still has not passed his conditioning test. I'm not sure what the program plans on doing with him. It actually might be smart to redshirt him at this point, but when healthy, he can probably make a solid contribution on the glass. Time will tell what the outcome will be.