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APR issues put Alcorn State in difficult position

The Braves face another postseason ban in Montez Robinson’s second year in charge. But that doesn’t mean he can’t coach.

NCAA Basketball: Alcorn State at Iowa
Marquis Vance will be a key player next season for the Braves.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Pile up a 72.2 percent conference winning percentage in your first year and you’re sitting pretty as a head coach. That is, unless you’re Alcorn State’s Montez Robinson.

Robinson’s debut season, strong as it was, was never going to end with a postseason berth, due to APR trouble. His second season will follow the same path, as the Braves face another postseason ban for the same reason this upcoming year. That mutes what otherwise should be joyous optimism after a 13-5 SWAC record and a second-place regular season finish.

There may, however, be one crucial thing in Robinson’s favor: time. Athletic Director Derek Horne had his contract extended last week after overseeing an uptick in athletics success. Football is king, but the strong showing from Robinson’s basketball program was likely a factor. Not that APR trouble that predated him would’ve put Robinson on the hot seat, but Horne’s extension should give him added job security, no matter how the upcoming season plays out.

And it could be challenging one.

The Braves lose All-SWAC second-teamer Tamarcio Wilson (31.1 minutes per game, 12.2 points per game) as well as Octavius Brown (31.0 mpg, 13.0 ppg). Those two were first and second on the team in scoring and minutes per game. Robinson also loses two other key seniors in Devonte Hampton (29.6 mpg, 8.6 ppg) and Patrick Onwenu (25.1 mpg, 8.1 ppg).

These heavy losses may paint the picture of Robinson inheriting an experienced team last year and riding that to a strong a conference record. But that’s not the case.

His coaching chops were on display last season, as he helped Wilson and Hampton develop into bigger roles and oversaw improvements across the board. The Braves went from 6-25 (4-14) to 15-15 (13-5), and posted a much better defensive efficiency figure (247th in the country) than the year before under Luther Riley (347th). The cupboard isn’t totally bare of experience going forward, giving him a greater chance of continuing that improvement.

Marquis Vance (29.7 mpg, 7.9 ppg, 5.4 rebounds per game) and DeAndre Davis return (18.4 mpg, 7.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg) return for their senior seasons. Those two, along with rising junior Reginald Johnson (17.8 mpg, 6.8 ppg), will try and fill the production void left by the departing players. Davis could be a sleeper since he posted an excellent 15.3 percent offensive rebounding percentage in his relatively limited action last season.

Robinson also brings in a five-member recruiting class that includes just two high school players: point guard Maurice Howard and wing Yalen Reed. The most intriguing newcomer might be guard Avery Patterson, who got some playing time as a freshman at Western Kentucky in 2014-15 before transferring to junior college.

"I am really excited about Avery's leadership and his ability to score with the ball from all three levels," said Robinson in a press release back in May.

Despite the personnel losses, there’s certainly a chance next year’s Braves’ team will be just as good as last year’s. But no matter how good the team might be, it won’t matter because of the APR guillotine. That’s a tough spot for Robinson early in his tenure, but it doesn’t mean Alcorn State has the wrong man in charge.