Before Jon Severe and Eric Paschall, it was Ryan Rhoomes who generated the headlines when he announced he was signing with Fordham.
Rhoomes was a star at Cardozo High School in Bayside, Queens, before playing one season at NIA Prep in Newark. After committing to TCU, he was declared academically ineligible in the summer of 2011, and the following spring he decided to play his college basketball at Fordham.
“Tom Pecora just called me and he says Ryan is the best big man he’s ever gotten, whether he was at Hofstra or Fordham,” Ron Naclerio, who coached Rhoomes at Cardozo, told The New York Post's Zach Braziller after Rhoomes chose Fordham:
They need a big guy. One thing they’re gonna find out about Ryan is he’s very efficient down low. He doesn’t take a lot of shots. He’s a team player. He’s gonna rebound, he knows how to play. He runs the court.
Two years from now, he can be vying for all-Atlantic 10 honors.
Two years later, that hasn't happened. As a freshman, he averaged 3.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. In his sophomore season, he averaged 6.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.
Rhoomes will be the first one to tell you that things didn't go as planned in 2013-14—not for him and not for the team.
"We thought we were going to do a lot better," he said. "It really didn't go the way we wanted it to go. It’s just a matter of growing up and wanting to work. If we don’t work we’re going to get embarrassed."
Since its season ended almost two months ago, Fordham has been working, taking part in offseason workouts, which concluded last week.
At the second-to-last workout, Rhoomes spoke about what needs to happen in order for the Rams to have more success next season.
"We have to keep working," he said. "A lot of guys have to step up. A lot of guys have to lead. A lot of us have to score and do better defensively.
"Right now I don’t think we’re at that stage. I think these workouts are helping a lot. It's bringing us together."
Rhoomes, who was a consistent presence at the workouts, said he was working on a number of things to improve his game heading into his junior season. He mentioned leadership and attitude first, but then went on to say he's been focusing on free throws, jump shots and finishing around the basket.
He's hoping that all the hard work pays off next season, saying a 20-win season would be a good goal to set.
"I'm really excited because I want to see what we can do," Rhoomes said. "We have a lot of young guys in here. If we get this ball rolling it will be a big story.
"I have confidence in my team, I have confidence in my coaches," he added. "But if we don't work we're going to lose."
Rhoomes won't have to do it all by himself. In fact, he said that from a leadership standpoint, everyone will have to pitch in.
"We all have to be leaders," he said. "It can’t just be one, two or three people. It has to be everybody."
Joining Rhoomes in the frontcourt—which got a bit more crowded last week when German forward Christian Sengfelder signed a National Letter of Intent with Fordham—will be Travion Leonard, another Ram who had a disappointing year in 2013-14.
Leonard's points per game (4.5), rebounds per game (4.2) and minutes per game (15.6) were all down from his freshman season.
During the offseason workouts he said he was focusing on "getting in better shape, trimming down, getting better around the rim."
Leonard said that he "got lazy" last season and relied too much on shooting jumpers instead of using his size to his advantage.
"I never really worry about scoring," he said. "My main concern is rebounding. Some games I’d come out and have 10 rebounds. Some games I'd come out and have two. That was one of the things that kind of disappointed me."
"It was very difficult," he said when asked to evaluate his season. "I feel I did better my freshman year than I did last year. I think it was mainly mental and confidence."
Like Rhoomes, he admitted there's a lot to work on, but Leonard is confident that the Rams can rebound next year.
"As a team we’ve been growing up day by day," he said. "We still have some parts we have to work on, but you can see it’s coming along."
When asked what would make next season a successful one for the team, Leonard settled on 19 wins.
"I’m really excited to see exactly what we can do," he said, "and [to] prove people who doubt us wrong, let them know that we actually have something going on in this gym."
Quotations in this article were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Charles Costello covers the Fordham Rams for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @CFCostello.
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