Fordham Basketball: Ryan Canty, Bryan Smith Preparing for Senior Seasons

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Fordham Basketball: Ryan Canty, Bryan Smith Preparing for Senior Seasons
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Fordham's 2013-14 season came to an end on March 13 when the Rams lost to Dayton in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament.

The work, however, continues.

Not only has the coaching staff continued its pursuit of recruits—efforts that paid off last week when senior point guard Nemanja Zarkovic, a native of Serbia who migrated to Canada and who currently attends Montreal's College Jean-De-Brebeuf, signed a National Letter of Intent with Fordham—but the returning players are back at it as well.

Once the season ends, teams are allowed six one-hour workouts during the spring that end a week before final exams and resume when summer school begins. 

Last Tuesday, inside Fordham's Rose Hill Gym, a good number of players took part in the workouts.

Two of those players in particular, Ryan Canty and Bryan Smith, will have a lot of responsibility placed on them in 2014-15. Both will be seniors looking to improve on junior seasons that fell short of expectations.

Canty played in the Rams' first three games, but then took a leave of absence and missed the next six. He returned on Dec. 21, but it would take him a good two months to return to form. When he did, he was one of the Rams' most productive players.

In five of Fordham's final six games, he had 10 or more rebounds. On the last day of the regular season, he grabbed 16 rebounds against George Washington. In the play-in game of the Atlantic 10 tournament against George Mason, he had 19. In the first round against Dayton, he had 10.

"It gave us that little extra push we needed," Canty said after Tuesday's workout, referring to his performance down the stretch.

When asked what the difference in his game was late in the season, Canty said "getting comfortable again, feeling comfortable on the court," made all the difference.

As for Smith, he's the first to admit his season did not go as planned. He averaged just 7.3 points per game and shot only 33.8 percent from the field. He, too, is looking forward to his senior year.

"I'm looking for a big improvement next year," Smith said after participating in Tuesday's workout. "My junior season was not how I wanted it to go.

"I have a lot to work on. I'm staying positive and [I'll] keep working in the gym. I want to go out on a positive note."

Smith said he thought the Rams continued to play as a team this past season, despite a 10-21 record and eight straight losses to close out the regular season.

"We all struggled at [some] point, but we stayed together," he said. "We didn't give up on each other." 

Canty also offered his take on last season.

"Stuff's going to happen in life," he said. "Things aren't always going to go your way. You have to just give 100 percent effort and just push through it."

That's exactly what Smith says he's seeing from teammates during the offseason workouts.

"We're all working hard [and] staying in good shape," he said. "Everybody is positive. Everybody wants to get better. Everybody's tired of losing."

Smith understands what's expected of him going forward.

"With Branden (Frazier) leaving, it's big shoes to fill," he said. "He was a good leader for us. He did a lot for the team. Stepping into our senior season, we (he and Canty) each have to take part of that leadership [and] lead everybody else."

Canty sounds like he's ready to accept that role as well.

"It's a lot on us," he said. "Leading by example, going out there and giving 100 percent effort every game and hoping other people follow."

Head coach Tom Pecora is counting on Canty and Smith to contribute on and off the court. He has high hopes for both.

Pecora, like everyone else, saw at the end of last season what Canty is capable of bringing to a game. He's talked about how important it is for Canty to have a productive offseason to get himself ready for his senior year.

"He's never had an offseason because of his back," Pecora said during an interview in his office last week. "We want him to be able to get through this spring, summer and fall healthy. In turn, take that step to put himself in position to have a huge senior year.

"He's a guy who can average double-digit rebounds for us. He's going to defend the post. He's a good screener. He can get 10 points a game just on the foul line, off rebounds, on pick and rolls and lobs. We talked to him about the various ways he can score points. He's not going to score points on jumpers; that's not his world. That's OK.

"In the (George) Mason game at the end of the year he had 19 rebounds. There aren't a lot of kids in America that go get 19 rebounds. He has that ability. Now he's got to be consistently good as a senior."

Pecora also expects more from Smith.

"Bryan Smith's too good a shooter to have the shooting percentage that he had," Pecora said. "He's going to compete for minutes. Whatever his role is, his offensive field-goal percentage needs to go through the roof.

"Being consistently good is where he needs to get. His whole career's been a roller coaster. It's been up and down. We've always said he's been the X-factor. But now he's a senior. There are no excuses, whether he's starting or whether he's coming off the bench. He's got to have a positive impact. I know he will in the locker room—he's a great kid. I know he will in practice. But I want him to contribute.

"I want it for them," Pecora added. "They're seniors. They deserve it."

 

All quotations in this article were obtained firsthand. 

Charles Costello covers the Fordham Rams for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @CFCostello.

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