Fordham Adds Talent at a Crucial Time for the Program

Charles CostelloContributor IMay 22, 2014

Dec 29, 2012; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Fordham Rams head coach Tom Pecora and guard Bryan Smith (24) talk during the first half of the game at The Hank McCamish Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Josh D. Weiss-USA TODAY Sports
Josh-USA TODAY Sports

The offseason at Fordham has brought with it the reminder that in college basketball there really is no time off.

While not a complete overhaul, the Fordham Rams will have a new look when they take the floor next season. When you consider how much they've struggled, that's a good thing.

This is, after all, a crucial time for the Rams.

The biggest headline since the season ended was generated by Nemanja Zarkovic, the Serbian-born point guard from Montreal's College Jean-De-Brebeuf, who signed with the Rams last month. Fordham was in desperate need of a point guard, and the general consensus is that they found a good fit.

"What I really like about him is he scores,” head coach Tom Pecora said about Zarkovic. “He's got a great toughness to him and a commitment to being a really good player.

“When I watched him work out, it was as good a workout, as hard working a workout, as I've ever seen a guy go through. In the process of doing that, he still shot the heck out of the ball when he was tired.”

Everyone seems to say the same thing: At 20, Zarkovic is a mature kid who appears well-suited to lead an offense.

“You're not getting a baby,” Pecora said. “He's physically and mentally mature.

“We evaluated him on tape against Division II opponents that went up and played there (Canada) last summer, and he played great in a lot of those games against good, veteran upperclassmen. And then when I went and saw him work out, I felt very comfortable with him.”

Zarkovic will no doubt be given an opportunity to show he's ready to step in and start next season. He won't be handed the job, but Pecora is confident he'll be in the mix.

“He's a student of the game,” Pecora said. “He watches a lot of film. He's a very bright kid. I think he can be a great floor general and a good complement with Antwoine (Anderson), whether he's playing next to him or they’re backing each other up. However it plays out, they’re competing.”

Pecora is big on competition. You have to be when your team’s won 34 games in four seasons.

“There’s going to be battles at every position on the floor,” Pecora said. “In the back of my head are there certain guys that I think are going to be starting? Yeah.

"I feel good about the group we've got.”

One of the players Pecora is counting on is Anderson, a redshirt freshman who was ineligible last season. Anderson has looked good in offseason workouts, and Pecora expects him to be a big part of next year's team.

“Antwoine is about speed,” Pecora said. “He can get from one baseline to the other as fast as anybody I've coached.

“That's got to be a weapon for him to put pressure on the opposing defenses.” 

Another player who could have an impact is Germany’s Christian Sengfelder, who signed with Fordham three weeks ago and should provide help in the frontcourt.

Pecora said he’s seen a lot of film on Sengfelder, and assistant coach Tom Parrotta, responsible for so much of the Rams’ recruiting efforts, saw him live.

“Big, physical, can play both the four and five spots,” Pecora said about Sengfelder, before adding that he’s a typical European basketball player with a "good skill set and a really hard worker.”

Pecora said last week that the Rams have three available scholarships. He said a recruit would be coming in to visit in early June and that Fordham is looking to add at least one more frontcourt player.

"Numbers are important,” he said. “If we added one more frontcourt guy, that would basically be six frontcourt guys. I think it's a pretty good group."

That group includes Sengfelder, Ryan Canty, Ryan Rhoomes, Travion Leonard and Manny Suarez. There's also Eric Paschall, whose versatility and overall ability will allow him to play anywhere on the floor.

Without a doubt, there will be more talent on the roster next season. That doesn’t guarantee better results, obviously, but it is a step in the right direction.

"Everybody is moving forward, as we are,” Pecora said. “The question is can we move forward to the degree where it gets us over the top?

“First and foremost it comes down to players, second is scheduling and then how we develop and coach those players is third.”

At a crucial juncture in the Bronx, there is no time off.


Quotations in this article were obtained firsthand.

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