Robert Morris University head men’s basketball coach Andrew Toole announced the program’s 2015-16 recruiting class Thursday, which includes five freshman and one junior college transfer.
Joining RMU for the 2015-16 campaign are freshman guards Matty McConnell (Oakdale, Pa. / Chartiers Valley), Jordan Lester (Sammamish, Wash. / Eastlake), Isaiah Still (Rahway, N.J. / Union Catholic) and Steven Whitley (Norfolk, Va. / Fork Union Military Academy), freshman forward Joe Hugley (Gaithersburg, Md. / Magruder) and junior college forward Billy Giles (Richmond, Va. / Allegany College of Maryland).
“We’re excited about our recruiting class, and I’m excited about the potential of this group,” Toole said. “We expect they’ll come in and work as hard as they can and embrace the success we’ve had as a program.”
McConnell and Still signed National Letters of Intent (NLI) with the Colonials in the early signing period of November of 2014, while Lester, Whitley, Hugley and Giles signed NLI’s with Robert Morris in the spring.
“We sat down as a staff and identified some of our weaknesses, and I think we’ve addressed what our needs are,” Toole said. “Backcourt depth was an area we really needed to focus on, and four of our recruits are guards. We’re hoping that group comes in and competes for minutes and pushes our returning players.”
The recruiting class joins a group of four returning starters and seven letterwinners from a squad that finished with an overall record of 20-15 (.571) in 2014-15, including a mark of 12-6 (.667) in the Northeast Conference.
RMU claimed its eighth NEC Tournament title and subsequent bid to the NCAA Tournament in 2015 by earning a 66-63 victory at St. Francis Brooklyn (3/10/15) in the championship game of the 2015 NEC Tournament.
In the 2015 NCAA Tournament, the Colonials posted an 81-77 win against North Florida (3/18/15) in Dayton, Ohio, as part of the 2015 NCAA First Four before falling to Duke (3/20/15), the eventual 2015 national champion, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Charlotte, N.C.
RMU’s appearance in the 2015 NCAA Tournament marked the seventh postseason appearance for the Colonials in the last eight years. During that span, the Colonials have appeared in the 2009, 2010 and 2015 NCAA Tournament, the 2008, 2013 and 2014 National Invitation Tournament (NIT) and the 2012 CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT).
Returning as starters for RMU in 2015-16 are guards Rodney Pryor and Kavon Stewart and forwards Elijah Minnie and Aaron Tate.
Pryor paced the Colonials in scoring in 2014-15 by averaging 15.6 points per contest while also grabbing an average of 4.7 rebounds per game. Pryor was named the 2015 NEC Tournament Most Valuable Player (MVP) after averaging 14.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in three games.
Minnie averaged 6.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game as a freshman in 2014-15 and established a Robert Morris single-season record for blocks (36) and a freshman mark for field goal percentage (.547). Stewart produced averages of 6.1 points and 4.6 assists per contest, while Tate supplied averages of 3.8 points and 4.4 caroms per game.
RMU enters the 2015-16 campaign with an overall record of 183-96 (.656) over the last eight years, both a school and league record. Over that span, the Colonials rank ninth among mid-major programs in victories.
Robert Morris 2015-16 Recruiting Class
Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Year Hometown / High School
Billy Giles F 6-7 185 Jr. Richmond, Va. / Allegany College of Maryland
Joe Hugley F 6-7 200 Fr. Gaithersburg, Md. / Magruder
Jordan Lester G 6-1 190 Fr. Sammamish, Wash. / Eastlake
Matty McConnell G 6-1 190 Fr. Oakdale, Pa. / Chartiers Valley
Isaiah Still G 6-6 185 Fr. Rahway, N.J. / Union Catholic
Steven Whitley G 6-4 210 Fr. Norfolk, Va. / Fork Union Military Academy
Billy Giles (F) – Signed a National Letter of Intent with Robert Morris in May of 2015 … Started all 29 games for Allegany College of Maryland in 2014-15, averaging 23.6 points and 14.9 rebounds per game … Led National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I in rebounding while ranking third in scoring … Shot 55.9 percent (273-for-488) from the field and 68.2 percent (131-for-192) from the free-throw line … Compiled 111 blocks, an average of 3.8 per contest … Registered 58 steals, an average of 2.0 per game … Reached double figures in scoring in each of Allegany’s 29 games, eclipsing the 20-point plateau on 19 occasions and 30-point threshold eight times … Scored a career-high 40 points against Northern Virginia Community College (2/19/15), finishing 18-for-25 from the field and 4-for-8 at the free-throw line … Played his prep basketball at Douglas S. Freeman High School.
Joe Hugley (F) – Inked a National Letter of Intent with RMU in April of 2015 … In 2014-15 as a senior at Magruder averaged 16.6 points and 9.1 rebounds per game … Established a Magruder single-season school record with 88 blocks, an average of 3.5 per contest … Named the 2015 Montgomery Sentinel Co-Player of the Year … Earned a spot on the the 2015 All-Montgomery 4A Conference First Team and was selected to the Washington Post All-Met Honorable Mention squad … Selected to play in the 2015 Roundball Classic All-Star Game … Named a Capital Classic NoVA/MoCO All-Star.
Jordan Lester (G) – Joined the Colonials by signing a National Letter of Intent in May of 2015 … As a senior at Eastlake in 2014-15 provided averages of 21.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.1 steals per game … Named to the 2015 All-Kingco Conference First Team … Led the conference in free-throws attempted per game (9.1) and free throws made per contest (7.0) … Selected as team captain and team most valuable player (MVP) in 2014-15.
Matty McConnell (G) – Signed a National Letter of Intent with Robert Morris in the early signing period in November of 2014 … Led Chartiers Valley to the 2015 Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (WPIAL) Class AAAA championship with a 78-67 victory over North Allegheny by scoring 34 points … Led the WPIAL in 2014-15 in scoring at 29.5 points per game while averaging 9.1 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 4.9 steals per contest … Converted 57 percent of his shots from the field and 78 percent at the free-throw line … Named the 2015 Player of the Year by both the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review … As a junior in 2013-14 averaged 21.8 points, 8.9 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 5.1 steals per contest … Finished his prep career by scoring 2,018 points.
Isaiah Still (G) – Inked a National Letter of Intent with the Colonials in the early signing period in November of 2014 … As a senior in 2014-15 averaged 19.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.7 steals per contest … Earned a spot on the 2015 NJ.com All-Non Public Third Team … As a junior in 2013-14 produced averages of 18.1 points and 5.1 caroms per contest.
Steven Whitley (G) – Signed a National Letter of Intent with RMU in May of 2015 … In 2014-15 at Fork Union Military Academy in Fork Union, Va., provided averages of 16.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game … Played his prep basketball at Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk, Va.
Andy Toole on recruiting at the junior college level …
“We’ve been really fortunate in the junior college ranks the last few years, from Karvel Anderson to Aaron Tate to Rodney Pryor. We think Billy shares some characteristics with those guys. He’s a kid that’s battled adversity to get the opportunity he’s getting at RMU, and he’s grateful for that. He has a tremendous motor, and while his statistics jump off the page at you, his toughness and his activity are going to carry over to the Division I level. He has a chance to be a really productive piece to our rotation.”
Andy Toole on replacing all-time leading rebounder Lucky Jones …
“Lucky left a large footprint on this program throughout his four years in a Robert Morris uniform. Not only with his individual stats with his scoring and rebounding, but with the number of wins he was able to be a part of. His personality and toughness are going to be tough to replace, and it won’t be easy. We’ve had some impactful players gradate from our program during my tenure, and we’ve been able to replace those guys. This will be as tough a test as any of those. Our returning guys are going to have to elevate their games to help us replace Lucky, and the new guys are going to have to come in and infuse some energy into the program with the way that they play.”
-By RMU PR Staff