Fordham Basketball: 5 Offseason Storylines That Will Impact the 2014-15 Campaign
The Fordham Rams have had anything but a quiet offseason.
In fact, this might be the busiest Fordham's ever been.
Coming off a 10-21 campaign, and having won just 39 games over the last six seasons, 2014-15 is a pivotal year for the program, and for head coach Tom Pecora and his staff.
Now that summer school is in session and the Rams are back on campus, it's a good time to evaluate what's taken place so far.
These storylines—the most important ones—have one thing in common: Each development will have a direct impact on the product Fordham will put out on the floor next season, ultimately leading to newfound success or all-too-familiar struggles.
Pecora says his team is ready to turn the corner. Here are five things that have happened since last season ended that will determine whether or not he's right.
End of Season Marks Beginning of New Era
While it's true that all NCAA teams are allowed to conduct offseason workouts, you could argue that for a team like Fordham—one that will have to incorporate a lot of new faces into the mix—the extra time in the gym takes on added importance.
When the season ended, and prior to final exams, the Rams took part in workouts. It gave guys like Ryan Canty, Ryan Rhoomes and Travion Leonard an opportunity to work on their low-post games. Jon Severe, Bryan Smith and Mandell Thomas got a lot of shooting in.
And Antwoine Anderson got on the court with his teammates.
Anderson, a redshirt freshman, was ineligible last season. But he was a big part of the workouts, giving the Rams a glimpse of what he might be able to bring to the team.
Anderson could share time at the point with Nemanja Zarkovic, or he could emerge as the main guy. Pecora said recently that Anderson's speed is his biggest asset. Once he gets more work in, and develops chemistry with his teammates, he could be a huge addition.
Zarkovic and Eric Paschall, Fordham's top recruits, have already arrived on campus. Christian Sengfelder will join the Rams in about a month. All will attempt to usher in a new era of basketball at Rose Hill.
Newcomers Keep Coming
Anderson. Zarkovic. Paschall. Sengfelder. Manny Suarez.
These are five new names that you'll see on the court next season. With scholarships available, there could be more on the way.
It's a good thing because without an influx of talent, the Rams won't be able to get out of the Atlantic 10's cellar.
What these recruits and, in the case of Anderson and Suarez, now-eligible players have done is breathed fresh life into the program while adding depth and a great deal of hope.
As mentioned, Zarkovic will compete with Anderson at point guard. People rave about Zarkovic's maturity and about the mental part of his game. In addition to leading an offense, he can also shoot. At 20, it's expected that he'll be able to handle the responsibilities that await him.
Paschall is one of the most highly touted recruits to ever come to Fordham. This past season, he was named the New England Prep Player of the Year playing for Connecticut's St. Thomas More. He chose Fordham over better programs in bigger conferences. At 6'6", he's expected to have an immediate impact. It could be a big one.
Meanwhile, Pecora says Sengfelder can play both power forward and center.
If nothing else, those three recruits, along with the additions of Anderson and Suarez, bring hope to a program in desperate need of talent.
A-10 Continues to Pose Major Challenges
The hard task of rebuilding just got even harder.
For the first time since Fordham joined the league, the A-10 is switching to an 18-game schedule.
Fordham will play five home-and-home matchups and eight single games against conference opponents.
The Rams will see Dayton, La Salle, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Saint Joseph's twice and the remaining schools once.
Duquesne, George Washington, Saint Louis and Virginia Commonwealth will visit Rose Hill, and the Rams will play at Davidson, George Mason, Richmond and St. Bonaventure.
What makes Fordham's task even tougher? How about the fact that the Atlantic 10 has never been better.
In 2010-11, the conference received three bids to the NCAA tournament. It received four bids in 2011-12, five in 2012-13 and six this past season.
In 19 years in the A-10, the Rams are 72-232 against league opponents. Now they'll be seeing even more of their conference foes.
Promoting from within
When David Duke left Fordham last month to become the head coach at Adelphi, it created a huge void that needed to be filled.
Duke was responsible for a lot of the Rams' recruiting efforts, and he was a highly respected assistant. Finding his replacement was one of Fordham's most important offseason tasks.
After an extensive search that brought forth candidates ranging from Catholic Youth Organization coaches to former Division I head coaches, Mike DePaoli, who for the past four years has been Fordham's director of basketball operations, was promoted to assistant coach.
This was not a shock to those who know the program best. DePaoli is a tireless worker, a guy the players like and respect. For starters, go to Fordham's offseason workouts and you'll see for yourself.
The New York native gets his shot. It's a big one for him, and it was a big decision for the Rams.
He may have been the most talked-about player on Fordham's roster last year, so it's only appropriate that Jon Severe has gotten the most press since the season ended.
Severe averaged 17.3 points per game in his freshman year. Then, the awards poured in.
First, he was voted to the 2014 Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team. Then, he was named the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association Rookie of the Year. Finally, he was one of five men's basketball players named to the Atlantic 10 Commisioner's Honor Roll (to qualify, a student-athlete must have a 3.5 GPA or better).
If Fordham is going to have success in 2014-15, Severe is going to have to be even better than he was as a rookie. His talent, performance and the accolades that have followed are all good signs that we'll see an even better player emerge. He's been a real positive for Fordham. That should continue.
All quotes and paraphrases obtained firsthand.
Charles Costello covers the Fordham Rams for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @CFCostello.