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Give Youthful URI Rams the Benefits of Time

URI vs. Bryant (Photo Credit: Alan Hubbard)

Is there anything better than college basketball? Seriously.

More specifically, is there anything better than college basketball in the state of Rhode Island? In a state where fans allegiances to professional teams rely on crossing borders and exiting the state either north or south on interstate 95, college basketball gives Rhode Islanders a sense of pride. It’s ours.

That’s what makes it so good to be back. Good to have fans excited again. Good to see another group of Rhode Island Rams on the Alex and Ani Court inside the Ryan Center.

The youthful Rams have big shoes to fill. Truly, the storylines have been beaten to death already and we haven’t even seen the Rams in action more than twice. But, in case you have forgotten, here are a couple of noteworthy points.

  • Dan Hurley out, David Cox in. After leading Rhode Island to back-to-back NCAA appearances, Hurley departed for the University of Connecticut ushering in his associate head coach’s era in Kingston.
  • Rhode Island graduated the likes of five seniors. E.C. Matthews, Jared Terrell, Andre Berry, Jarvis Garrett and Stanford Robinson.
  • The Rams are the reigning Atlantic 10 regular season champs. For the first time in program history Rhode Island dawns that title. Judging from the new banner hanging from the Ryan Center rafters, they’re pretty proud of it, too.

  • Anchored by four-star, big man Jermaine Harris, Rhode Island has a five-man freshman class that is one of the, if not the, best in the school’s history.

That final point is the one to be emphasized this season. This team is young. From Harris to Tyrese Martin, Dana Tate and Omar Silverio, the potential is there. But, let us not forget the task these guys have.

They are coming in following one of the best men’s basketball runs in school history. That’s not an easy burden to bear. These freshman have minutes and points to account for, but they’ll have to ease into bigger rolls as their careers unfold. After all, it did take E.C. Matthews and Hassan Martin four seasons to reach the NCAA tournament.

It’s not that this year’s squad can’t do that, it’s that they need time to develop into college basketball players. Talent that might struggle through some games this season in Kingston could ultimately gel to create a team equal to that of the five seniors that just graduated last year. They just need time.

From David Cox’s perspective there is no better way to develop his young core than to play them. What better way to get acclimated to college basketball than by being thrown into the fire; making mistakes, bouncing back and learning, developing and preparing each and every day.

These freshman are in good hands with upperclassmen who now have a taste for rings, banners, net cutting and championships. Jeff Dowtin and Cyril Langevine have been part of a team that has taken home the A-10 title for the first time since Lamar Odom. They have hoisted the school’s first regular season conference championships ever, yet are only juniors. And they, too, were both groomed by upperclassmen.

Fatts Russell (Photo Credit: Alan Hubbard)

Then there’s Fatts Russell. The shooter who, whether shooting 6-6 or 0-10 is the most confident player on the court. Russell’s confidence is infectious. He’s a hybrid of the juniors and the freshman. He’s had some postseason moments (i.e. picking Trae Young’s pocket and splashing a three vs. Oklahoma last season). But, he too has additional maturing to do. Russell is going from being a bench player to being a consistent, 30 minute per game starter. That’s a big jump that he’ll need to adjust to.

Youth is a blessing in college basketball and can take one of two paths: one-and-done freshman at the Power 5 level, or, developed, consistent, program changer at the mid-major level. With the staff Cox has assembled at Rhode Island and the recent success of the program, there is no reason for me not to believe this group has a high ceiling.

However, let the Rams develop into their rolls. Don’t let the youthful mistakes and misfires fool you, this team is skilled and capable of some very fine accomplishments. Just let time do it’s thing.

The next Rams game on YurView is vs. Harvard on Friday, November 16th at 7:00pm. YurView is Cox channels 4 and 1004 in Rhode Island.

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