RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The impact of the NCAA’s decision to allow basketball players an extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19 is already being felt in the hoops world. But the Richmond Spiders are especially benefitting, as coach Chris Mooney’s roster boasts six graduate students.
That mature roster includes all-conference performers Jacob Gilyard, Grant Golden and Richmond native Nick Sherod.
Walk-ons Jordan Gaitley and Sullivan Kulju also chose to take advantage of spending another year playing for Richmond.
“I believe it was the day after the A10 tournament this year, we woke up as an apartment, Sullivan, Grant, Jacob, and I,” Gaitley said. “I think it might have been Gilly (Jacob Gilyard), he asked me, ‘So what’s your plan, are you coming back next year?'”
Gaitley said his response was, “‘I am not going to lie to you, whatever you and Grant decide to do and Sullivan, I am all in for because I know if you are all back, we will be able to have a special team along with Nick and Nate.'”
Just like that, the decision was made.
He said that he hopes the team would be special this year and he is looking forward to the season.
“I truly believe this is a family,” Kulju said. “You can tell we all care about each other, we all genuinely get along with each other. It’s not for a show or for looks, anything like that, it’s true friends, brothers in arms, that type of a deal.”
He said it would have been hard to leave with all of his friends coming back, especially people he’d be playing basketball with for almost five years.
Mooney is certainly pleased.
“I was excited and happy, but I was humbled and emotional with each guy that decided and came to make it official. We had a big hug and some tears on my part, so I was really thrilled and kind of overwhelmed with such a unique situation,” Mooney said.
The coach explains that experience is important in college basketball and it’s valuable to have players around who have played through tough games and also had great moments with the team.
“I think that is such an advantage for us,” Mooney said.
Richmond opens its season against North Carolina Central on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Robins Center.