Fordham's Summer Heats Up with Arrival of International Recruits

Charles CostelloContributor IJuly 2, 2014

Photo: Charles Costello

This is turning out to be the summer of debuts at Fordham.

Eric Paschall and Nemanja Zarkovic were the first to arrive in late May.

On Tuesday, the latest batch of Fordham recruits—Christian Sengfelder, Dekeba Battee-Aston and Zaire Thompson—were on hand for the Rams' workout at the Rose Hill Gym.

After his late overnight arrival to Fordham, Battee-Aston was the only one who did not participate, but he did watch from the sideline as his teammates—new arrivals and veterans—were all on the court together for the first time.

Sengfelder, Battee-Aston and Thompson aren't just freshmen who will have to adapt to college. They're all international signings, making the adjustment that much greater. 

"It's a new experience, but the first practice went well," Thompson said afterward. "I'm just adjusting to the American style of basketball."

For Thompson, it was obvious from the start what that meant.

"They play a similar style that we did back in Germany," he said, referring to what he saw from his teammates during Tuesday's workout.

"The biggest difference is the athleticism. A lot of guys are way more athletic than people I've seen in Germany."

Sengfelder, also from Germany, agreed.

"It's way more athletic than it is in Europe," he said. "It's tougher and quicker, but I'll adjust."

All three are intriguing additions to a Fordham team that won 10 games a year ago. They join a program that has undergone a significant upgrade in talent since the season ended.

Battee-Aston is a 6'9", 255-pound forward who was born in Australia and moved to Texas at the start of high school. The Rams first saw him a couple of years ago when he was playing at Northfield Mount Hermon, a prep school in Massachusetts. He spent the past year back home in Australia with his mother.

"He can handle and pass the basketball for someone his size," Fordham head coach Tom Pecora said when asked about Battee-Aston after he signed last month. "He's a decent rebounder, a big physical presence."

Thompson is a 5'11" point guard who played for the Urspring team in Schelklingen, Germany, where he was teammates with Sengfelder.

When he signed, Pecora talked about what he looks for in a point guard.

"Knowing personnel is important for point guards—getting guys the ball in positions on the floor where they can score," he said.

"Offensive sweet spots vary from player to player. Good point guards know where those are for each player. That's where they deliver the basketball."

Thompson sees himself as that type of player.

"I'm a guy who likes to get people open shots, get people into the game," he said. "I like to create for different people. That's my first priority."

"I'll play whatever role Coach (Pecora) wants me to play," he added, "and play as hard as I can."

Sengfelder should add depth to the frontcourt. On Tuesday, the 6'7", 238-pounder knocked down shot after shot, displaying what Pecora says are typical European traits, describing his new forward as a player with a "good skill set and a really hard worker.”

"I can shoot the ball, so I think that's a bonus for me," Sengfelder said.

Judging by his performance on Tuesday, that will be a bonus for Fordham as well. 

"To play here at Fordham is a great opportunity," Sengfelder said. "I'm really blessed to be here."

What all three have in common, besides their international roots and rookie status, is that they're going through this new experience together. Adjusting to Fordham, the college game and a new system won't be easy, but they won't be doing it alone.

"We can talk to each other, because we're going through the same things," Sengfelder said. "We all have to make some adjustments. It's going to help us. It's good to have some veterans that tell you what to do and who help us."

Battee-Aston, who spent the entire practice Tuesday watching intently from the sideline, looked and sounded like a player who was chomping at the bit to get out there.

He admitted that "coming from Australia, the level of basketball will be a big difference," but said he'll "play hard and play team-oriented basketball."

"I'm extremely excited," he said. "I've been looking forward to this."

"I'm looking forward to seeing how all the international players, the younger players, the new players, the guys who [have been here], work out. It's going to be interesting."

"I'm looking forward to seeing how we come together with all the talent that we have."

Largely due to the gap year, Battee-Aston is perhaps the biggest unknown out of this year's crop of recruits. He's confident he'll fit right in.

"Every player that comes to this team has an impact," he said. "Coming in as a freshman, I feel there's a lot I have to offer over the next four years, especially having been brought in with other (guys) in the same age group. Together we can make a very big difference in this program."


Quotations in this article were obtained firsthand.

Charles Costello covers the Fordham Rams for Bleacher Report. Twitter: @CFCostello.