Robert Morris' offensive catalyst Jones nagged by injuries

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For all the statistics and metrics used to understand the game of basketball, the trust between a head coach and a senior leader is a facet of the game that is immeasurable and as important as any number.

In the case of Robert Morris coach Andy Toole and senior point guard Velton Jones, it's a relationship that has grown strong over the course of four years and one that will continue to play a central role for the Colonials.

Jones injured his right shoulder in a loss Jan. 31 at St. Francis, throwing his game-to-game status in limbo and providing uncertainty at perhaps the most important position on the court.

He went on to play a pivotal role in the team's 60-57 win at LIU-Brooklyn two days later, but sat out a victory Wednesday against Saint Francis. Moving forward, Toole's trust in veteran players such as Jones will play a large role in who takes the court for the Colonials and how the team performs.

"As a player, I liked to have a voice, to be able to relay the things that I see going on on the floor," Toole said. "I think that's a really valuable resource for us when you have guys that are intelligent about the game, that understand the game.

"Some of the suggestions don't make a whole lot of sense, but I'm OK with giving guys a voice and [letting them] be a part of the process. Velton and I have established that trust."

Scouting report

  • Matchup:

    Robert Morris (16-8, 8-3 Northeast) vs. Wagner (13-9, 7-4), 7 p.m. today, Charles Sewall Center.

  • Radio, Internet:

    WPIT-AM (730),

  • Robert Morris:

    Coming off 60-48 victory Wednesday vs. Saint Francis. ... Has won eight of past nine games. ... C Stephan Hawkins has scored in eight of the past nine games after being held scoreless in eight of the first 13 games.

  • Fairleigh Dickinson:

    Coming off 74-65 victory Wednesday vs. Mount St. Mary's. ... Has won four of its past five games. ... F Jonathon Williams leads the team in scoring (14.6) and rebounding (7.1). ... Coach Bashir Mason is in his first season.

  • Hidden stat:

    F Lucky Jones had 20 points against Saint Francis, going 3 of 3 from the field and 13 of 13 from the free-throw line. The previous player to be perfect on field goals and free throws while scoring 20 or more points was Louisville's Samardo Samuels in January 2010.

At no point was that mutual respect and understanding more important than in the final 30 seconds of the LIU-Brooklyn game. With the Colonials trailing by one, a hobbled Jones drove down the middle of the lane and drained a floater for the win.

"Once I knew we were getting the ball back, I just turned to coach Toole and said, 'Give me the ball,' " Jones said. "I think coach Toole has a lot of trust in me and we have a relationship where I can do that in those types of situations. I want the ball so I can make a play for my team."

For Toole, there's good reason to have trust in Jones, not only because of his ability to produce, but also because of his importance to the team.

Jones leads the team in usage rate (28.5 percent), a statistic that measures the percent of a team's possessions used by a player when that player is on the court. Nationally, Jones ranks 92nd among Division I players in that category, with his closest teammate, forward Russell Johnson, more than six points behind.

The importance of Jones goes far beyond how much he has the ball in his hands -- it's also his production and the team's overall offensive effectiveness when he is on the court. As of Friday, Jones ranked third among all Division I players in assist rate, which is the number of assists by a player divided by the field goals made by that player's teammates when he is on the court.

In short, Jones is the primary factor in what makes the Robert Morris offense work, a reality that makes his playing status that much more significant.

"Velton's played a ton of meaningful minutes in meaningful games and been in all of those situations," Toole said. "There's a great trust that they're going to do everything in their power for the team to be successful and that Velton's going to make the right decision coming down the stretch of games."

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Craig Meyer: and Twitter: @craig_a_meyer.


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