When the final horn sounded on Saturday, it signified more than the end of Rhode Island’s 26-8 season at the hands of Duke. It marked the culmination of the outstanding careers and contributions of the Rams’ senior class: Andre Berry, Stanford Robinson, Jarvis Garrett, Jared Terrell, and E.C. Matthews.
They arrived at URI in varying ways, from program rebuild cornerstone Matthews to junior college transfer Berry, and fueled the rise of the Rams from east coast afterthought to Atlantic 10 Champion and back-to-back NCAA Tournament squad. It seems only fitting then, that we devote some ink to each young man and their impact upon the program and institution — along with what immediately comes to mind when reflecting upon their careers.
2017-18 stats: 8.9ppg, 4rpg, .611 FG
Berry arrived in Kingston prior to the 2015-16 season from New Mexico Military Institute as a project, conditioning-wise. Over the course of three seasons under Dan Hurley, he reinvented himself from a seldom-used scholarship player to a major contributor on an NCAA Tournament team. Soft spoken as his @_Easy_AB twitter handle supports, the big fella became a fan favorite even penned a season long blog this year.
What I’ll remember: Those nimble hands and feet. URI hasn’t seen a big man in the last 20 years with the hands that Berry possessed. Like satellite dishes, those things picked up everything near them. But beyond receiving the ball, Berry’s penchant for angle-scoring and soft touch around the hoop was a godsend for a URI team wondering where its back to the basket production would come from in 2017-18. I remember fellow senior E.C. Matthews singing the praises of Berry to me back in August as one to surprise this year. He was spot on.
2017-18 stats: 8.8ppg, 5.7rpg, 2.1spg and 9,356 charges taken
After settling in via transferring from Indiana, Robinson showed his worth across the board. Frequently lauded by Hurley as the team’s MVP of the season, only a fool would measure Robinson’s value by the box score. Asked to check players much taller and longer them him in the post, Robinson was indispensable to team defensive success. He finished the year with 69 steals and made a living on coming up with winning basketball plays on a regular basis, like those 9,356 charges.
What I’ll remember: Well, it might be the Duquesne shot for many. But for me, it’s the defense he played consistently on A-10 Co-Player of the Year, Peyton Aldridge of Davidson. Aldridge averaged 21.2 points on 48% shooting for the year — but not against Robinson and URI. In fact, Robinson held the talented forward roughly 5 points below his season average on just 42% shooting this season, continually frustrating him and making him grind for everything. We won’t fully appreciate Robinson’s comprehensive impact until next year.
2017-18 stats: 5.3ppg, 2.4rpg, 2.3apg
Garrett, the Milwaukee native, was another early commitment to the rebuilding Rhode Island program a few years back, highly recruited out of Notre Dame Prep. He made an immediate impact and pushed incumbent Biggie Minnis for minutes out of the gates, before assuming the starting role the final 18 games of his freshman campaign. A steadying presence and capable jump shooter, Garrett had a penchant for stepping up and responding to adversity, whether after suffering a broken jaw his sophomore year or battling back from ulcerative colitis diagnosed his junior year.
What I’ll remember: Selflessness. For a team and program to max out, certain players need to sacrifice personal gain for betterment of the team. Jarvis Garrett did all of that and then some, ceding the starting point guard role to up-and-comer Jeff Dowtin and accepting his refined role willingly and positively — not to mention making several big plays. It’s a perfect case study in TEAM that any parent can teach their kid and any coach can be proud to teach his players. Garrett lived it.
2017-18 stats: 16.8ppg, 3.5rpg, .414 3PT
After decommitting from Oklahoma State and landing at URI, Jared Terrell was nails from day one. As he worked to polish his offensive game, his defensive presence and energy on that side of the ball endeared him to fans from the jump. A four year starter, Terrell would grow leaps and bounds as a finisher while rounding into form as a jump-shooter. By this season, he was savvy in understanding how to get to his spots and virtually unguardable at times. A first team all conference player, he accepted and met every challenge Hurley threw at him in his four years, and will go down as one of the very best to wear Keaney Blue.
What I’ll remember: Mostly, it’s Terrell as a leader. From his shining-moment smile to his ability to instill calm in his teammates, and even coach at times earlier in his career, Terrell always projected the feeling that he was onto the next play and not worrying about the preceding one. It’s critical for teams to have that anchoring presence in the huddle… and that was JT.
2017-18 stats: 13.6ppg, 4.1rpg — 1899 career points
Had a wrist injury not robbed Matthews of another handful of games, he would’ve been a 2,000-point scorer at Rhode Island. One of the cornerstone commitments – along with Hassan Martin – of the rebuild, Matthews exuded smooth from the moment he stepped on the court as a freshman. The long lefty flashed the ability to pile up points in an unassuming way, often leaving you bewildered at game’s end that he just scored 23. One of the best gliders with the basketball I can remember, he’d endure significant injury setbacks over his five years in Kingston, but persevere.
The way he finished his career, in the NCAA Tournament against Oklahoma and Duke, by shooting 15-29 from the floor, 7-16 from 3PT range and grabbing 12 boards was poetic and many would argue owed to Matthews for what he battled through.
What I’ll remember: On Saturday night I knew when URI would be pulling back into the Ryan Center after arriving home from Pittsburgh. My wife and I drove over just before midnight. We were the only two in the parking lot when the Academy buses rounded the corner. We popped out of our car briefly to see Dan and Andrea Hurley, Coach David Cox, T.J. Buchanan and a couple of others for a moment. Most people scattered to head home after a long day physically and emotionally, but E.C. hung around a bit longer and engaged us. As we have so many times, we talked for a bit… and he was reflective and in relatively good spirits. That’ll be my last Ryan Center memory of a kid who gave the university his all, always represented it with class, and helped transform its program.
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