Fordham's Jeff Neubauer Beginning to Put His Stamp on Program

Charles Costello@@CFCostelloContributor IMay 8, 2015

Mar 21, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA;  Eastern Kentucky Colonels head coach Jeff Neubauer motions from the sideline against the Kansas Jayhawks in the first half during the 2nd round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Fordham head coach Jeff Neubauer has only been at the school for a little more than a month, but he's pretty sure of what he'll need to do to win games at Rose Hill.

"In college basketball, when you take a new job, it really can be overwhelming at times because there's just so much to do," Neubauer told Bleacher Report Thursday morning. "My general focus here over the last month has been, No. 1, to develop relationships with the new guys; No. 2, hire a staff. And now we're really spending most of our time recruiting."

On that front, Fordham received some good news Thursday. According to the Sun HeraldJahshire Hardnett, a point guard from Gulfport, Mississippi, signed a national letter of intent with Fordham and will join the Rams for the 2015-16 season.

Hardnett is the first to buy in to what Neubauer is selling.

"Right now, it's about trying to flip this program really quickly," Neubauer said. "Obviously Fordham basketball has struggled. We're not hiding that from anyone. As we talk to recruits, we're not trying to sugarcoat anything. There have been some tough times here, but our plan is to flip it quickly."

Neubauer has his work cut out for him, but he sounded confident when talking about his plan and where it will all start.

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"Our program will be built on defense," Neubauer said. "As we go out looking for guys right now we know we have to defend. I don't know how difficult that's going to be, but the defense here has to improve and it has to improve quickly."

Offensively, Neubauer said he's put a premium on players who can help in specific areas where the Rams struggled last season.

"At the offensive end, last year's team really struggled to value the ball, and it did not shoot the ball well at all," Neubauer said. (The Rams turned the ball over 452 times and shot 41.5 percent from the field.) "As we target new recruits, those are the things we're after."

He added: "If we start with the idea that decision-making wasn't good and the three-point shooting wasn't good, we're going after 1's, 2's and 3's that can make decisions with the basketball and can make open shots."

While there's been a concerted effort to upgrade the talent, Neubauer is confident that some of the pieces are already in place. For example, he's impressed with Ryan Rhoomes, who will be a senior next year, and Christian Sengfelder, who was named Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week five times in 2014-15.

"There are a few guys that have really proven statistically that they can compete at this level," Neubauer said.

"The foundation for Fordham basketball is already here," he added. "We're going to win because of our foundation. We're going to win because of the guys here. Now, do we need to go out right now and sign some guys that can make an impact in the A-10 immediately? Absolutely. 

"It's a combination. Obviously what Fordham has done here recently has not been enough."

Hardnett should help. The point guard position was an important one to fill. Last season, Mandell Thomas moved there from shooting guard and played well. Hardnett, a natural point guard, would be a better option, one who could send Thomas back to the off-guard position.

Expect Fordham to remain aggressive in pursuing additional talent, no matter where it might have to go to find it.

"Selling New York City is not hard," Neubauer said. "It sells itself.

"There's no question we're going to attract great players here. [But] we're not going to limit ourselves. We're going to do everything we can to recruit this city and attract great local talent. However, we are trying to piece together a winning basketball program. I don't care if we sign a young man from any part of the country. Our job is to win games here at Fordham, and we're going to do that."

Quotations in this article were obtained firsthand.

Follow Charles Costello on Twitter: @CFCostelloA full archive of his articles can be found here

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