Kingston -- Figuring out the URI basketball roster looks a little bit like a math problem that students are doing while distance learning during the COVID-19 crisis.
They started the season in October with 12 scholarship players, one under the maximum. But when the first semester ended freshman guard Gregory Hammond was gone, eventually transferring to UMass-Lowell. Next on the way out was sophomore forward Dana Tate, who transferred to Siena after being suspended at URI. So now there were 10 Rams, nine of them eligible to play. That left Coach David Cox with little depth and, by the end of the season, a tired group.
After a 21-9, third-place finish in the Atlantic 10 came news of the virus and more departures. Sophomore forward Tyrese Martin, who played 34 minutes a game in a breakout season, surprisingly departed, announcing this week a reunion with Dan Hurley at UConn. Previously, Mekhi Long, a valuable reserve who showed promise in his freshman year, left the team. Ultimately, he chose to continue his career at Old Dominion. And two key players graduated: Jeff Dowtin and Cyril Langevine. Coach Cox and his staff had signed two recruits: guards Ishmael Leggett and Elijah Wood.
So that’s: 12-1-1-2-2+2 = 8. Not difficult math but not a full roster either.
The coaching staff hit the recruiting trail hard, landing three transfers of their own, towering twins Makhi and Makhel Mitchell, and Malik Martin, younger brother of Ram great Hassan Martin, as well as prep big man Abou Ousmane. But before you could even change the math equation, Ousmane changed his mind.
But schools can change their minds, too. After backing off Tennessee guard Tres Berry, Rhody got back in involved, and on Friday Berry announced on Twitter that he would be a Ram.
So that’s 8+3+1-1+1=12.
For now, that leaves one spot, assuming team leader Fatts Russell, who is testing the NBA waters, returns for his final campaign.
Until next week, the math lesson is over.
MORE ON MARTIN
Of those who have left, Martin’s production will be the most difficult to replace.yy He averaged 12.8 points and 7 rebounds a game and was expected to, along with Russell, anchor next year’s team.
In an interview with Gavin Keefe of The Day in New London, Martin said, “I knew I would only leave Rhode Island for an elite program like UConn. I left a great program for an elite one. It was nothing personal with Rhode Island.”
In the interview he said he trusts Hurley, who had recruited him at Rhode Island, and liked “the intensity that he brings every day to games and practices. He just pushed his players to be the best they can be.”
ALSO OF NOTE
Marial Mading, who spent the summer in Kingston but left without ever suiting up, will attend Pacific University next year after playing a season in junior college.
Sharp-shooting juco guard Keon Ellis picked Alabama over URI and others.