Ryan Rhoomes' role on the 2014-15 Fordham Rams just got a whole lot bigger.
Last week, the school announced that center Ryan Canty will need back surgery and is out indefinitely. He's not expected to return until mid-December at the earliest.
It was going to be an important year for Rhoomes, a 6'8" power forward, no matter what. Now, he'll be counted on even more.
"I'm stepping up a lot now," Rhoomes told Bleacher Report following last Saturday's practice at Rose Hill. "[I'm] shooting a lot more, trying to get my shot good enough for the season. [I'm] trying to get more aggressive, working out more, pushing my teammates and trying to [be] more team-oriented.
"All that helps throughout the season."
Rhoomes isn't the only one doing the "pushing," as he called it. He said that coaches were pushing him as well. Now that the Rams are down to three upperclassmen, and with a thin frontcourt that just got thinner, even more will be expected from him going forward.
"They want me to do more," Rhoomes said about the coaching staff. "They want me to be more vocal. I have to make sure I'm doing the right things every day."
It's not that Rhoomes wasn't doing that the last two seasons. But now he's a junior, and he's been talking all along about being a better player and better teammate this year.
In his freshman season, he averaged 3.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. Last year, he averaged 6.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.
Rhoomes said he's "getting better day by day [by] shooting more, demanding the ball and pushing the freshmen," obviously aware of how big of a role he has to play.
He certainly doesn't lack motivation.
"Being here for two years and winning 17 games is a big motivation," Rhoomes said. "People doubting us is a big motivation. People saying we can't do certain things. Everything motivates me. I take a lot into consideration. That's why every day I come in here and do my best."
Fordham head coach Tom Pecora is counting on Rhoomes in a lot of ways, especially in light of Canty's absence.
"There's a huge opportunity now for Ryan Rhoomes at that spot," he said, also mentioning Dekeba Battee-Aston and Christian Sengfelder as players who will have to pick up the slack.
Rhoomes understands how important Canty is to the team. He was right there when Canty pulled down 19 rebounds in Fordham's win over George Mason in the play-in game of the Atlantic 10 tournament in March. But he's not about to call the season off just because Canty won't be there at the start.
"I think we should be OK," Rhoomes said. "It's a big loss. Ryan loves to rebound, he loves to be aggressive. I think the first couple of games it will be hard. The guards are going to have to rebound. Once conference play comes around, everybody is going to have to [bring] their A-game."
Rhoomes said questions came up this summer about why guys didn't talk to each other more. He took that as a challenge and set out to change the dynamic on and off the court.
"Everybody's [been] more team-oriented," he said. "Everything is going to be different this year."
"I feel pretty confident," he added. "The vibe on the team is different."
That's what everyone will tell you. Rhoomes is a big reason why.
Quotations in this article were obtained firsthand.