The Fordham University men’s basketball team was picked to finish last in the conference by the Athlantic-10 coaches despite arguable the most talented roster coach Tom Pecora’s had in this five seasons in Rose Hill.
“I think this is the deepest we’ve been top to bottom,” he said.
Much of the roster is young and unproven and features veterans like Bryan Smith and Ryan Rhoomes who will be asked to do more than ever before. The Rams who went 10-21 last year, will also be without senior center Ryan Canty, their best returning front court player until mid-December as he recovers from back surgery.
Star sophomore guard Jon Severe, an all-conference third team selection returns and will look to build off a year that saw him average 17.3 points per game and set the school’s freshman scoring record. Pecora believes the Rams improved roster will take some of the offensive burden off of Severe.
“I think he had a good offseason, he approached things maturely, the way he had to work and things he needed to do, and then because of our greater talent this year and greater balance, he won’t have to look and score every trip down the floor,” he said.
The optimism around this team comes from the Rams’ new additions. The super athletic Antwoine Anderson and 6-foot-10 Manny Suarez will finally suit up after being ruled ineligible by the NCAA last season. Pecora praised freshman forward Chris Sengfelder’s progress so far and believes Nemanja Zarkovic can provide outside shooting. Fordham’s most influential new face is expected to be 6-foot-6 freshman guard Eric Paschall, who averaged 26 points and 11 rebounds during his senior at St. Thomas More.
Pecora feels comfortable playing him anywhere from shooting guard to small forward. Paschall dropped in 36 points in a win during the team’s Canadian tour this August. He is expected to make an impact right away for the Rams.
“I believe he can play just about anywhere in the country, as most of the best players in this conference could, so it’s going to be great to coach him and he’s going to make me look like I know what I’m doing,” Pecora said.
His rosters increased size should make life easier for Mandell Thomas and the 6-foot-2 Smith, who was playing power forward at times last year. Fordham will still have to make up for the graduation of Branden Frasier, its top scorer and leader.
“The only regret I have is we didn’t turn it around while he was there,” Pecora said. “You know, if we turn it around this year, Branden Frazier will have a lot to do with that because he was as good a person and as good a Fordham Ram, as good a Fordham man.”
His team’s schedule features 16 games at Rose Hill and games against St. John’s at Madison Square Garden and borough-rival Manhattan College at the Barclays Center. Fordham also travels to face Penn State and Maryland. Pecora said while it maybe be easy to start looking ahead to the big games, team can’t do that if it wants to be successful.
“Be smart enough, be mature enough to prepare for one opponent at a time,” Pecora said. “Then you’ll have great success at the end of the year when you look back on things.”