Fordham Men End Season 7-24, Still Expect Bright Future

Photo+by+Michael+Hayes%2FThe+Ram+Mandell+Thomas+impressed+as+a+freshman+and+will+be+counted+on+next+year.
Back to Article
Back to Article

Fordham Men End Season 7-24, Still Expect Bright Future

Photo by Michael Hayes/The Ram Mandell Thomas impressed as a freshman and will be counted on next year.

Photo by Michael Hayes/The Ram Mandell Thomas impressed as a freshman and will be counted on next year.

Photo by Michael Hayes/The Ram Mandell Thomas impressed as a freshman and will be counted on next year.

Photo by Michael Hayes/The Ram Mandell Thomas impressed as a freshman and will be counted on next year.

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






By CHESTER BAKER

STAFF WRITER

Photo by Michael Hayes/The Ram Mandell Thomas impressed as a freshman and will be counted on next year.

Photo by Michael Hayes/The Ram Mandell Thomas impressed as a freshman and will be counted on next year.

Another Selection Sunday has come and gone as the Fordham men’s basketball team watched without anticipation. There were no bubbles to be burst, no seeding to be determined. It has been a foregone conclusion for some time that the Rams were in no position to make it into the 68-team field. Still, qualifying for the NCAA Tournament was never a primary goal for Fordham this season. Instead, head coach Tom Pecora focused on finishing the season around .500 and earning a spot in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

The Rams were not able to accomplish either of those goals, however, as the team finished with a 7-24 record and missed out on the conference tournament.

“Personally, I feel like we’re a year behind schedule,” Pecora said. “In the past when we’ve built programs, you struggle in years one and two, and then year three is when you turn the corner a little bit and get yourself around .500, and then year four you’re up and running.”

Pecora, who finished his third season at Rose Hill with a 24-64 record, built Hofstra into a successful program in the 2000s.

While some students may have found it easy to write off the men’s basketball team, there were several factors which kept Fordham from turning the corner, with the most glaring being the amount of road games this season. The Rams packed their bags 16 times this season, while only hosting opponents 11 times, as Fordham was hampered by some contracts.

“I knew how brutal the schedule was, with us playing the most road games of anybody in the county,” Pecora said. “I knew that that would be a great challenge for a young team.”

Going forward, the Rams will look to host more non-conference games in the Bronx. This season, Fordham played only three non-conference opponents at Rose Hill, while most teams in the Atlantic 10 have around 10.

“As of now if we were done [with the schedule] today we would have seven non-conference home games and six non-conference road games,” Pecora said.

It still remains to be seen who Fordham will be playing in conference next season, as rumors about Butler and Xavier joining the new Big East have been circulating. With the Atlantic 10 in flux, Fordham will have to wait and see which schools, if any, the conference decides to add.

The other main factor in the disappointing year was the knee injury to senior forward Chris Gaston, who missed 14 games.

“It was a disappointing season for him,” Pecora said. “He missed half the games that were played this year; I’m sure that’s not how he planned it, and I know it’s not how he planned his senior year to go. I believe we had our starting lineup healthy for five of 31 games.”

Gaston averaged 14.4 points per game this year, his lowest production in college. The New Jersey native was recently drafted ninth overall by the Ponce Lions of Baloncesto Superior Nacional de Puerto Rico,  Puerto Rico’s professional league.

Gaston ends his college career as one of the top players to come through Rose Hill, ranking eighth in scoring and third in rebounding in school history. He has also shown promise in his first games in Puerto Rico, posting 27 points in his first two outings a pro.

As Gaston goes, it is clear that freshman Mandell Thomas is ready to take over the program. The guard averaged 9.8 points per game, but broke through late in the season by consistently putting up double digits, including a 23-point performance in the Xavier game.

“Mandell got a great opportunity to play a lot, especially after he got himself into the starting lineup,” Pecora said. “He had some exceptional games. He’s still a little inconsistent at times, but on a team with 12 freshmen and sophomores, he’s really elevated himself and secured himself a position in the starting lineup if things develop the way we believe they can. He has the opportunity to become an All-Conference player.”

Thomas was not only the young player to show promise during the season, as freshmen Ryan Rhoomes and Travion Leonard, as well as sophomore Ryan Canty, contributed with some stellar outings.

“In recruiting the most difficult thing to find are quality big people,” Pecora said. “I think you saw a big jump in the difference between Ryan Canty [in] his freshman and his sophomore year. I think you’re going to see a big [jump] with Ryan Rhoomes and Travion Leonard as they move into their sophomore years. I think the front court is going to be in good shape for years to come. I believe the sky is the limit for how good they can be.”

Returning with the rising stars will be junior Branden Frazier, who will once again be a vital piece of the team. The guard averaged career-highs in points and assists.

Frazier will have several new teammates to find for the open look next season, as Fordham signed three players to letters of intent, including Manny Suarez, who is ranked as the 70th best center recruit by ESPN, as well as the 6-foot-7 Denzel Gregg. Jake Fay, brother of redshirt freshman Jared Fay, will also don the maroon and white next season.

Though the season was disappointing overall, the Rams ended the season on a high note, knocking off St. Bonaventure 76-72 on Saturday, March 9. The road win was the first conference victory on the road for Fordham in four years, snapping a 36-game streak.

“It was great to get the monkey off our back,” Pecora said. “It was great to see that the guys, in the last game of the season of a rough year, were still competing at a very high level. They hadn’t tossed in the towel, and I think that speaks volumes to their character because it would have been easy for them to just lay down and say that the game was meaningless in the sense of us getting into the tournament.”