Richmond Times-Dispatch

Detroit Mercy out for UR’s opener

Titans withdraw because of virus test in program

- BY JOHN O’CONNOR joconnor@timesdispa­ (804) 649-6233 Twitter: @ RTDjohnoco­nnor

Detroit Mercy will not be Richmond’s season-opening opponent Wednesday night in the Bluegrass Showcase at Kentucky. The Titans announced Monday night that they have withdrawn from the four-team event because of a positive COVID-19 test in the program.

According to the school, a member of the support staff tested positive. No players or coaches tested positive, though members of the team are in isolation due to contact tracing.

Earlier Monday, Kentucky coach John Calipari addressed the possibilit­y of all three teams not being cleared for competitio­n, saying, “You know, this thing is … We don’t control it. It controls us, this virus.”

Richmond will open against Morehead State on Friday at 6 p.m. (Richmond Spiders YouTube page), and then face No. 10 Kentucky Sunday at 1 (ESPN). UR’s travel party is scheduled to leave Richmond on Tuesday on a flight.

Division I teams recently ramped up testing to three times a week in preparatio­n for the season, per NCAA guidelines. According to Bluegrass Showcase organizers, games not played at Kentucky may be made up later in the season. Detroit Mercy was also scheduled to play Kentucky and

Morehead State.

Without Detroit Mercy, Richmond is scheduled to play nine times in the season’s first 26 days, still depth-testing frequency. The Spiders’ bench quality seemed outstandin­g five weeks ago. Dilution followed.

Attrition arrived with the season-ending knee injury suffered in amidOctobe­r practice by starting senior forward Nick Sherod. Then, sophomore transfer Connor Crabtree didn’t come back from a pair of hip surgeries as quickly as he hoped he would. Crabtree, who started 15 games as a Tulane freshman two years ago and then redshirted at UR, recently returned to the court for basketball activity.

He won’t be available in the Bluegrass Showcase at Kentucky. Richmond will lean hard on four returning senior starters and sophomore forward Tyler Burton, who stepped in for Sherod. Those Spiders likely will need significan­t support through an active opening month.

“With Nick going down and Connor not being there, I think we’re still deeper than we have been in years past,” senior guard Jacob Gilyard said.

Richmond’s original schedule had Detroit Mercy and Morehead State visiting the Robins Center. The pandemicca­used delay to the season’s start influenced Bluegrass Showcase organizers to invite competing teams to UK’s Rupp Arena.

Moving the 6-foot-7 Burton into the starting lineup reduces the 3-point shooting UR had with Sherod, but Burton gives the Spiders more height and athleticis­m. He played 14minutes a game and averaged 4.6 points and 3.9 rebounds as a freshman. Mooney believes Burton will develop into a star.

“There will be plenty of college teams around that he’d be the best player,” Mooney said. “I really think his future is incredibly bright.”

The experience­d reserves, with Crabtree out, are 6-4 Andre Gustavson, 6-9 Sal Koureissi, and 6-9 Matt Grace. Gustavson was a steady contributo­r last season. Koureissi and Grace were good in spurts. The newcomer most likely to play a role, according to Mooney, is 6-0 freshman Isaiah Wilson.

“He is incredibly fast. Great defensive instincts. Very competitiv­e. Really willing to be physical,” Mooney said.

According to Mooney, Wilson’s developmen­t accelerate­d through daily competitio­n against Gilyard and 6-0 senior

Blake Francis, a pair the coach described as “one of the best backcourts in America.”

The Spiders, favored to win the A-10 in the league preseason poll, haven’t opened away from the Robins Center since 2007.

 ??  ?? Isaiah Wilson is the newcomer most likely to play a role for UR.
Isaiah Wilson is the newcomer most likely to play a role for UR.

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