Fordham Basketball: Competition Is the Name of the Game These Days

Charles CostelloContributor IJuly 3, 2014

Fordham's Ryan Rhoomes, right, fouls Massachusetts' Raphiael Putney, left, during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Amherst, Mass. Massachusetts won 90-52. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Jessica Hill/Associated Press

The scoreboard said it all.

Maroon had a 20-19 lead over White with under a minute to play in what was more than just your average July scrimmage inside the Rose Hill Gym Tuesday.

It was the first time that the entire 2014-15 Fordham squad was out on the court together, though, Dekeba Battee-Aston, who had a late overnight arrival, was held out of what may have been the most intriguing workout of the offseason so far.

The one-point differential was exactly what the Rams had hoped for at this point.

If you've been around Fordham the past few years, surely you're familiar with certain buzzwords that have pervaded the campus and program—process, commitment and talent, to name just a few.

The one emerging word that may trump all those, and the one you're going to hear a lot about leading up to what is a very important season for the Rams, is competition.

For the first time since Tom Pecora has been at Fordham (he was hired on March 25, 2010), there's sufficient talent up and down the roster, enough to create realistic scenarios at every position where players are going to be competing for minutes.

No longer will the team rely on just one or two guys to carry them throughout the long season, when the challenges get more and more difficult as conference play heats up.

Eric Paschall may be Westchester's Mr. Basketball, and Jon Severe may be New York's Mr. Basketball, but now they're Fordham Rams—part of a cast that's vying for playing time and, ultimately, wins.

This has been Pecora's plan all along. Bring in enough talent so that players are going after it every time they take the floor. That will benefit everyone, Pecora says.

"I want every position to be a two-headed monster where there are people going after each other every day in practice. That's going to make everybody better."

"It's about competition," he added. "The more guys we bring in, the competition level will grow. That's what it's about—competing for minutes."

Perhaps no one embodies that more than point guard Nemanja Zarkovic.

Fordham clearly brought him here to be the starter. But the 20-year-old freshman, who's been a huge bright spot early on, is taking nothing for granted.

"I love it. I think it's a great thing," Zarkovic said last month when asked about the competition. "You don't want to be satisfied. If I were to come in here and be the starting point guard from Day 1, it would be easy for me to be satisfied and then just stop working.

"One thing I've always been told...if you start being satisfied, you stop learning. You don't want that. That's the worst thing that could happen."

It took Zaire Thompson, another point guard, just one day (his first workout with the team was Tuesday) to buy into that mindset.

"There's a lot of competition," he said. "Everybody wants to get as many minutes as they can so everybody's out there competing and working as hard as they can.

"That's a good mentality."

With 20 minutes put on the clock during the last segment of Fordham's workout Tuesday, players were divided up into two teams: Maroon and White.

There was some switching back and forth, but for the most part, White consisted of Zarkovic, Severe, Thompson, Paschall, Ryan Canty and Manny Suarez. Mandell Thomas, Antwoine Anderson, Bryan Smith, Ryan Rhoomes and Christian Sengfelder played for Maroon.

The most obvious takeaway from the scrimmage was the competition that took place at every position, perhaps best exemplified by Rhoomes and Canty, who battled the entire time.

That's something that should only heat up even more as the season gets closer and as players start to realize that the guy defending them is not only trying to keep them from scoring, he's trying to take away minutes as well.

"The mindset is different," Severe said at the beginning of the summer. "Everybody's playing harder and competing."

Severe, who averaged 17.3 points per game as a freshman last season, is a prime example of a young player who could benefit from all this.

As good as he was at times last season, he could be even better, and that should happen with guys pushing him in practice.

At the end of the scrimmage Tuesday, with 37 seconds left on the clock, Maroon held a 20-19 lead.

White failed to score on what would be its last possession. On the other end of the floor, Sengfelder, suiting up for the first time as a member of the Fordham Rams, put one in at the buzzer to give Maroon a 22-19 win.

On the first day of July, Pecora's grand plan was already playing out.


Quotations in this article were obtained firsthand.

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