Traditional Recruiting Class, Returners Hope to Push Robert Morris Over Hump in Third Horizon League Season


The team huddles before their game at Cleveland State Photo credit: Tyler Gallo

Ethan Morrison

As the calendar nears the end of October, a new Robert Morris basketball season is right around the corner. The Colonials are looking to improve upon a roller coaster of a season that included a lot of ups and downs throughout the year.

RMU finished with an overall record of 8-24 on the year and 5-16 in Horizon League play, which was good enough for a 10th-place finish in the league standings. Robert Morris even had some success in the Horizon League tournament upsetting Youngstown State in the first round of the tournament before eventually falling to Cleveland State in the quarterfinals 83-67.

The offseason also featured the departure of several players, including Justin Winston, Chase Cook, Brandon Stone, Jaaron Williams and Kam Farris.

Before last season, the Colonials dealt with a multitude of players leaving the program, but that is a different story this season.

Four out of the team’s five starters returned to Moon Township this summer and are gearing up for their third season in the Horizon League. Head coach Andy Toole returns for his 13th season at the helm and is excited for all of the returning players.

“I thought that group of [returners] made some strides at the end of the season, but every year is its own entity, and you have to build it each and every year to become better,” said Toole. “We need guys to be stars in their roles, and I think at times last year we had a lot of guys that wanted to do the same thing and didn’t want to do everything that it took in order to win a basketball game and that’s what we talked about this summer. We emphasized those points, and those different things will help us become a more well-rounded and more successful team.”

Spear (2) will return for his graduate season in 2022-23 (Photo by Tyler Gallo)

Kahliel Spear returns for his graduate season after breaking out in his senior season as he averaged just under 15 points per game and seven rebounds per game. He shot the ball from the floor at a 55 percent clip while having success from beyond the arc finishing the season and shooting 26 percent from downtown.

Toole discussed Spear’s return to the rotation and what he has to do to take his game to the next level.

“Kahliel [Spear] is going to be a guy that will be atop the scouting reports for everybody and he is a returning all-conference player, so he has been through many different situations throughout his college career,” said coach Toole.

Enoch Cheeks had a breakout year last season after struggling in his freshman campaign. After averaging five points per game in his first year with the team, the Providence, R.I. native averaged nine points per game and also had success on the boards averaging five rebounds per game.

A college basketball player who takes a big jump between his freshman and sophomore year is not uncommon, but Toole discussed what clicked for Cheeks throughout the 2021-22 campaign.

“Enoch’s progression is somewhat natural for a traditional college basketball player. You have some ups and downs as a freshman and you show some signs of becoming a good player and then things usually start to click in the second year, especially in the second half where we saw Enoch really take a jump. He played harder than anyone on our team. He almost always had the most difficult matchup on the defensive side, which he took great pride in,” said Toole. “He became more aggressive getting to the basket and shot the ball at a better percentage, so those are some of the things that we want to continue to have him improve on along with his offensive efficiency and communication is critical and is something that he is starting to understand where he needs to be on both sides of the ball and can he make the game easier for others around him and set the tone and edge for the players around him.”

Enoch Cheeks drives through the lane (Photo by Justin Newton)

Just as Cheeks improved over the course of the season, Matt Mayers worked his way into more playing time as the season progressed, starting 23 out of the 32 contests and averaging 17 minutes per game. Throughout the season, Mayers showed flashes, averaging six points per game and four rebounds per game.

But for Mayers, the key for him this season is to play more consistently on the defensive side of the floor, offering more resistance down in the paint to help complement his offensive ability.

Michael Green III enjoyed bundles of success over the course of his first season in a Colonial uniform after transferring into the program from Bryant. The senior point guard reached double digits in scoring, averaging 10 points per game and three assists per game.

Toole spoke on Green’s success over the course of the year as he became more comfortable in the rotation.

“Down the stretch, I thought you saw Mike get more and more comfortable in terms of handling the ball and controlling the game,” Toole said. “We know his skill and ability to score, but can he communicate, can he organize, can he make sure everyone is where they need to be. Can he make the game easier for the players around him.”

A player with limited action last season and averaging just two points per game was sophomore guard Tristian Jeffries. But over the course of the offseason, Toole was pleased with Jeffries’ development.

“I think Tristian is finding his way into the rotation,” Toole said. “He is trying to work to try to get out there on the floor and be consistent and relied upon and some of that comes down to your daily habits. He has spent some more time in the gym this summer and making sure to get extra work in, but he still has to continue to improve with his decisions on both sides of the ball and I think that can provide him the opportunity for him to be out there.”

Outside of the returners, Toole and his staff brought in three true freshmen who are looking to make an immediate impact in the lineup this season.

TJ Wainwright kicks off the fresh faces to the Robert Morris roster this season and is the headline recruit in this year’s 2022 class.

Wainwright, a Los Angeles, Calif. native, comes into Moon Township after spending his post-graduate season at Monteverde Academy as he helped his team to a prep national championship.

Wainwright committed to the program in February after taking an official visit in late January. Toole spoke on Wainwright’s intangibles and what he is excited about for the young guard this season.

Wainwright during his official visit at Robert Morris (Photo by Tyler Gallo)

“TJ is a point guard who is an ultra-aggressive ultra-competitive high-energy guard who can get into the lane and really compete on both ends,” said Toole. “You always know that he is out there and is always involved in the action, mixing stuff up. He is going to come in and is not going to back down to anything or anybody and we really like that about him.”

Ben Kryskowiak comes into the program after spending time at IMG academy. He helped lead the team to a 23-5 record and a semifinal appearance in the GEICO National Championship Tournament.

Toole discussed Kryskowiak’s skillset and what stands out to him as a player.

“Ben can really shoot at 6’4 and understands how to play. He moves the ball to all the right places and is a high-energy guy. Kryskowiak has a great personality when he walks into the gym and weight room every day.”

Stephaun Walker was the final player to commit to the program as he inked his National Letter of Intent in April 2022. The District of Columbia native averaged 16 points per game at Calvin Coolidge high school.

The Colonials also brought in five transfers to complement the returners and the freshman on the roster.

Josh Corbin transfers into the program from Winthrop after averaging 4.7 points and 1.8 assists per game. Corbin has a deadly shot from beyond the arc, shooting the ball at a 29 percent clip knocking down 81 career three-pointers in his two seasons at the Division I level.

Jackson Last spent his two years of eligibility at Salt Lake Community College averaging 9.2 points ,1.6 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game in 35 games throughout the season.

He also reached double figures 19 times in his redshirt freshman season with the Bruins last season.

Kevin Martina, an international product from Geneva, Switzerland, spent one season on the bench at Sam Houston State. In his limited action with Sam Houston, the Swiss forward shot 7/12 from the field while knocking down on three-point field goal in 11 games.

Chris Ford comes by way of Davidson after appearing in eight games in his freshman campaign. Ford averaged 1.5 points per game, shooting the ball at a 60 percent clip from the field while finishing with a double-double against JWU (Charlotte) on Dec. 22.

Trey James spent two seasons with Rick Pitino and Iona before transferring into the Robert Morris program in April 2022. The former four-star recruit saw action in 11 games this past season, averaging 1.2 points and just under a rebound per game. He also shot 62 percent from the field in his limited action.

The Colonials head into this season with confidence as they bring in a more traditional recruiting class. Toole and his staff are looking to turn the page and finally find success in their third season in the Horizon League.