Fordham Basketball: Player Development at the Heart of Offseason Workouts

Charles CostelloContributor IApril 24, 2014

Dec 7, 2013; New York, NY, USA;  St. John's Red Storm guard Jamal Branch (0) shoots over Fordham Rams guard Bryan Smith (24) during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

As it turns out, Fordham's basketball season never really ended—not after the Rams lost in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament, and not even after the University of Connecticut cut down the nets after winning the national championship.

Of course, it's no different for any other team in the country, but when the goal is to rebuild a program that hasn't had a winning season since 2006-07, that's won 39 games in six years, that's finished above .500 just once in the last 22 years, you basically have no other choice but to keep at it.

For the past few weeks, the Rams have been in the gym participating in a series of workouts, with the final one set for next Tuesday.

The workouts will resume when summer school begins, but the recent activities have given coaches and players an opportunity to get in additional work that, if you saw the way things went in 2013-14, is much needed.

For Tom Pecora, the Rams' head coach, this is the time of year when he and his staff have the opportunity to look closely at a lot of the things that they're not always able to address during the hectic season. Essentially, this is the time for player development.

"I have individual meetings with every guy," Pecora said last week when asked about what he hopes to get out of the workouts. "We talk about specific goals, what they need to work on [and] weaknesses in their game.

"The offseason is when you do that. In season, working on your weaknesses is near impossible. You can do a little bit in practice each day, but there's too much on the line to be doing that."

Last season, Fordham went 10-21 and lost its last eight regular-season games. Obviously, there's a lot of room for improvement.

Pecora likes having the time during the offseason to address the needs of individual players.

"We really have specific things that they're working on and it varies for each guy," he said. "That's why it's important."

For Pecora and his staff, one of the added benefits of the workouts is that the assistant coaches get to play a lead role working with players. Pecora doesn't participate in every workout, instead giving his assistants the opportunity to lead the sessions.

Earlier today, for example, it was assistant coach John Morton working with forwards Ryan Canty, Ryan Rhoomes and Travion Leonard. Later, he worked with guards Bryan Smith, Jon Severe, Mandell Thomas and Antwoine Anderson.

Pecora meets with his coaches beforehand, talks about what needs to be done, discusses drills and puts a plan in place for each workout. He thinks that's an integral part of their development as coaches.

"There were times when I was assistant that I didn't get to work with [the players]," Pecora said. "You don't develop as a coach and as a player [as a result]. I think it's part of my responsibility to give them the responsibility. It gives them a chance to almost learn how to run a practice."

Pecora believes it's good for the players as well.

"They can't hear my voice all the time," he said.

At a workout last week and again on Thursday, shooting was a main area of emphasis. Throughout the season, Pecora talked a lot about the Rams' struggles shooting the ball, evident by their overall field-goal percentage (.393). Shot selection was also something that Pecora consistently identified as being a problem.

Pecora says he and his coaches sit down with every player and go over all their shots, contested and uncontested, and their mechanics.

"Every shot that they took during the course of the year is on a DVD," he said. "We sit down with them and go through every make and every miss.

"It's a great time of the year to tweak and break things down for them."

Basketball continues to be played at Rose Hill.


All quotations in this article were obtained firsthand. 

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