Senior guard key for Robert Morris
There’s only one day left before the Andrew Toole era begins at Robert Morris, and there’s a lot of uncertainty.
Robert Morris hosts a veteran Saint Peter’s team at 4 p.m. Saturday, and the youngest coach in Division I men’s basketball still hasn’t decided on a set lineup, who will be the team’s defensive specialist and who will be the team’s top inside player.
Toole replaced Mike Rice, who’s now coaching at Rutgers.
What Toole does know is that he has a veteran backcourt returning, led by point guard Velton Jones, leading scorer Karon Abraham and the team’s only senior, Gary Wallace.
And one of keys this season could be whether Wallace, who averaged 5.8 points per game as a junior, can take his game to another level.
Wallace said he knows what Toole and the coaches expect from him. Now, it’s time to execute.
“They want me to become more of a scorer and want me to be a leader and to lead by example,” Wallace said. “I wouldn’t say it’s been easy because it hasn’t. Some days, it’s been tough. That comes with the territory of being the only senior. It’s something I have to expect and build upon every day.”
Wallace scored nine points against McGill in an exhibition game last week. That was fine, but he knew that finishing with no rebounds wasn’t acceptable.
“It’s something we’ve talked to Gary about for three years,” Toole said. “He is too big and strong not to go in and rebound. It’s something he has to focus on, remembering to go and rebound.
“When a shot goes up, it’s not time to take a break. It’s time to go in and help your team get a rebound, and we have to find guys who will do that regardless of their size and regardless of their ability.”
In addition to improved rebounding, Toole wants Wallace to be a leader and teacher on the court.
“He has intimate knowledge of everything we do,” Toole said. “We want him to sell to the guys what we’re selling and why you have to work hard every day in practice.
“Gary only knows the postseason. He’s been their three times. If he wants to go back again, he has to wear as many hats as humanly possible so that he can be successful.”
And Toole has simplified things for Wallace.
“In previous seasons, they would want me to score, but … we had so many other options,” Wallace said. “They were kind of disappointed in me.
“Coach Toole has made it plain and simple — they need me to score.
“I’ve done it before. Coach saw me when he recruited me. He’s seen the aggressive nature I have and what I can do.”
Saturday is a big day for other reasons for Wallace.
He’ll receive his third ring for making a postseason tournament, and the game is against the school that recruited him.
Saint Peter’s is only 20 minutes from Wallace’s hometown of Montclair, N.J., and Saturday’s game is against some of his close friends. Jordan Costner was a high school teammate, and Yvon Raymond and Ryan Bacon were on his AAU teams.