Riley wants to see massive leap forward in Year 2

The grades are in: Giving Nicholls football their marks
October 25, 2017
Plaisance hopes renewed health helps Colonels in standings
October 25, 2017
The grades are in: Giving Nicholls football their marks
October 25, 2017
Plaisance hopes renewed health helps Colonels in standings
October 25, 2017

Last year, the Nicholls men’s basketball team flipped the page and started something new.

This year, the Colonels hope that fresh start begins to pay off significant dividends in the Southland Conference standings.

Nicholls took part in Southland Conference Media Days this past week in Texas – the unofficial beginning of the college basketball teams for the conference’s teams.

Riley said he’s excited for his second season, adding that the Colonels have looked sharp so far in preseason practices, despite returning very little off last year’s team which went 14-17 and 7-11 in Southland play.

“We do have a lot of new faces,” Riley said. “It is a challenge because the biggest thing when trying to build a team is how well the guys get along and how they all play together. They’ve got to get used to playing together.”

The Colonels have almost an entirely new team from their group last season.

Nicholls has just three players back off last year’s team and 11 new players make up the team’s roster.

Riley said the No. 1 question he’s been asked throughout the offseason is how will the team replace graduated senior post player Liam Thomas – the lanky 7-footer who was one of the best defensive post players in the country, one of the nation’s best shot blockers for each of the past two years.

The coach said a definitive answer to that question remains unknown, but he’s hopeful that the Colonels can use a group effort to get the job done.

“It will be a committee-like approach,” Riley said.

Offensively, Riley said he likes graduate senior Jeremy Verhagen – a transfer player out of Northern Colorado. Verhagen averaged 6.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game last year for Northern Colorado, including a career-high 20 points against Austin Peay on Nov. 22.

Defensively, the onus to replace Thomas’ shot blocking will fall on another graduate transfer, Legend Robertin, who lands at Nicholls after some time at Clemson.

Standing 7-foot-1 and weighing 280 pounds, Riley said he thinks Robertin has the ability to come in and make an immediate impact in his final season of collegiate eligibility.

“Legend is different from Liam in that he’s a bigger presence,” Riley said. “He’s 7-foot-1 and weighs 280 pounds. He’s a high-major athlete. He’s really athletic. I think he has a chance to be an elite shot blocker in our league.”

On the perimeter, Nicholls has plenty new blood, but that’s also where the team has its returnees, as well.

Guard Javaughn Powell is back after averaging 11.9 points per game last year to go with 62 steals. Guards Lafayette Rutledge and Stevie Repichowski also return after last season to be among the top shooters on the team.

But Nicholls also has new blood that Riley hopes can change the team’s fate.

Transfers Tevon Saddler and Roddy Peters will be heavily involved in the Colonels’ plans – each with high hopes of potentially being game-changing pieces.

Saddler was an All-Conference player earlier in his career at UNC-Greensboro, while Peters was a former five-star recruit and McDonald’s All-American – a guy who signed with Maryland out of high school, but has bounced around a little since then, before landing at Nicholls.

Both players are seniors and Riley said he believes they’re both hungry to make good on their last year of eligibility.

During Nicholls’ offseason tour to the Bahamas, Peters and Saddler were big-time scorers who helped the Colonels complete the tour with an unblemished record

“I think each of those guys are going to be good,” Riley said. “They’ve got work to do. … We all do. But they’ve got a chance to be two of the best I’ve ever coached.”

So now, the Colonels’ challenge is to mesh.

Riley said despite all of the new players, Nicholls’ chemistry is high as the team has started preseason practices in anticipation of the new season.

Riley said he and his coaching staff recruited carefully to try and make sure all of the pieces fit, knowing that the team wouldn’t have a lot of time to allow chemistry to be built off the floor.

“We’ve done a good job with that as a staff and we give a lot of credit to our players for coming together,” Riley said. “All of these guys didn’t play together last year, but they’ve built a lot of meaningful relationships over time.”

The schedule Nicholls will play is challenging, but is something to look forward to. The Colonels play open on Nov. 10 against the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, then travel to Philadelphia four days later to take on Villanova in a nationally televised game.

In addition to the game with Nova, the Colonels will face several other opponents who can potentially make it to the NCAA Tournament – something Riley said he and his staff did by design to prepare the team for conference play.

“We’re excited about our schedule,” he said. “It’s going to be really challenging.”

Richie Riley

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