Lawrence Bridges and the rest of the Robert Morris men's basketball team stood at center court. Bridges spoke a few words, thanking the crowd for showing up for the annual RMU version of midnight madness. But the crowd was still buzzing, headed for the exits murmuring about the site they'd just witnessed as the finale to the slam dunk contest.
Bridges was the de facto winner, courtesy of a dunk where he reversed a ball-cap on his head in midair and another where he dunked over a photographer, but a last second ringer had everyone's eyebrows raised.
Treadwell Lewis threw down a windmill dunk and brought down the house.
Take a moment to digest that.
Lewis, a junior walk-on, is listed at 5-foot-10. And he pulled off a dunk that a few others had attempted and failed during the night.
Pretty tough to top that.
This was the first glimpse at both Robert Morris basketball squads. Sal Buscaglia has his usual roster of junior college transfers and European potential stars, highlighted by the returning Artemis Spanou. There's little doubt that if all gels there, the women's team will be very competitive once again.
But the men's team is the one with the intrigue. Only one player lost to graduation from a team that regularly had only freshmen and sophomores on the floor last year. Only one senior again this year. No Karon Abraham for the year.
So this was a chance - albeit very early - to see where some of the new guys might fit in. There is a core of six players - Velton Jones, Coron Williams, Lijah Thompson, Russell Johnson, Anthony Myers, and Lawrence Bridges - who have practiced and played together for a full season. Mike McFadden, who rested tonight with tendinitis but has practiced on a regular basis - is the seventh player with full experience who can help once he joins the active roster in December.
But the freshmen are the intriguing components. If two or three of them get it - and again, it's early to tell - this could be a very dangerous team. If they take the time that last year's group took, it could be difficult early on.
There are some bright spots. Lucky Jones has fit right in, and while there are no doubt going to be growing pains, he looks like he's been playing the system for a year. He has a nice touch from the floor, including from three-point range, and he was all over the place. Maybe that's Bob Hurley's coaching coming out. Remember, Jones wasn't even supposed to be a starter his senior year because of how much talent St. Anthony's had, but he got in there because of an injury. He's used to being a role player. But he could flourish at Robert Morris if he puts it all together.
Watching Darren Washington in the summer league, it was as if he'd have the light go on in his head on every other possession. On one series of plays, he'd be in the flow. On the next, he'd be caught thinking. Thursday night, he was active and it was noticeable. He needs to get stronger - he and a couple other freshmen were out-muscled on jump-balls and rebounds during the scrimmage by the vets - but he could be a presence.
Keith Armstrong is a big body and very active around the rim, but he had trouble finishing. Brandon Herman is very athletic and has a nice stroke. And David Appolon drew some of the tougher defensive assignments - at least, as tough as you can get in a scrimmage.
Colonials Corner is most interested in seeing how this squad looks in 11 days. It'll be another exhibition, but it'll be a chance to play against someone who doesn't know every possible trick you can pull out of your sleeve.
Some other sights and sounds:
- Lijah Thompson, recovering from a stress fracture in his foot, did not participate but served as a de facto hype man for the team and for the dunk contest participants. He should be good to go for the exhibition game against Wheeling Jesuit, as should McFadden.
Andy Toole fleshed out the roster with another walk-on. Former lacrosse player Shane Sweigart, a junior from Harrisburg, will be on the team this season. At 6-foot-4, 195 pounds, Sweigart can provide a body that can swing between the guards, wings, and forwards. He appeared to be in excellent shape, and he played high school ball at Central Dauphin East.
Suspended guard Karon Abraham was in attendance, mingled with the crowd and team, and even worked his way into a half-court shot competition. His attempt was well off though.
The men's team sported new warm-up gear, coaches gear, and shoes. Looks like the Colonials have joined up with Nike. Should get a good glimpse at the game gear on the 31st. Robert Morris had been with CRONS.
ColonialsCorner publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at email@example.com.