Jeff Neubauer begins his fourth year as head coach of the Fordham University men’s basketball program and to say the least the first three have been a struggle. Thursday afternoon at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn at the annual Atlantic -10 Conference media day there was that optimism.
This is a fresh start for the Rams. And because eight freshman comprise his team that begins play up at the Rose Hill Gym, November 6th against CCNY, there is that sense of optimism for the coming years. Neubauer intends to be there when this freshman class matures.
More so, the coach wants to guide a winning basketball program at Fordham. Job status is not the issue for Neubauer, but Fordham has seen two winning seasons in their 24 years since joining the Atlantic 10 Conference and this freshman class hopes to be a part of turning things around in the right direction.
“I don’t look at this as four years,” Neubauer said. “I look at this as a 24-year quest for fordham to win an Atlantic-10 championship.”
And with in this conference becoming more athletic, also dependent on the three-point play, this coach went out on the recruiting trail that could get Fordham close to their goal of getting where they want to be.
Last season is in the past as numerous injuries derailed the Rams and their starting five. The result, 9-22 overall and that 4-14 record in the conference that put them again at the bottom of the pile in the A-10 Conference.
But this is another year. They start healthy and with new NCAA rules, there was additional practice time in the Summer and a scrimmage trip of games in Europe. Neubauer said, his new kids on the block were able to bond and that was important.
“We got a bunch of guys that are united and determined,” he said. “ To me, a team and so much of basketball is a culture.” Not to say that the last three years a culture did not exist up at Rose Hill, but the right mix can change all of that.
And this mix includes a promising freshman that has this culture. Neubauer is anxious to unveil freshmen guards Nick Honor and Chris Austin and both can shoot the ball well. We have seen that, heard this, but ask the experts and they say Fordham did well bringing them to Rose Hill.
Honor, is an ESPN Top 150 in the nation from Orlando Florida. He handles the ball well and fits into the Fordham system of scoring from wide range.
“We have much better shooters in the program,” Neubauer said. “As we recruit we need to meet a higher level of athleticism because of what this conference brings”
So true, because the A-10 has become one of those top conferences in the nation. And the schedule does play a role, non-conference games in particular, that assist with the process of competing and getting to that level of achieving where Fordham hopes to be and real soon.
The new faces will pick up the slack for the absence of Prokop Slanina. He averaged 12.5 points per game last season and had surgery to another shoulder.
Neubauer said, the three-point shot is a part of the conference. The Rams and a major part, will revolve around that big play.
“We have to be,” Neubauer said. “We do have freshman strong beyond their years. The great equalizer in college basketball is the three- point shot and we have to be great at that.”
That is not the question, it is more about being young and get those wins. Fordham has the ability to score and time will tell how long they can stand up to the big guys in this conference. That test will come January 15th when Saint Louis University visits Rose Hill. They were established as the top team by conference coaches.
“We are going to build a program around them,” Neubauer said about the freshmen. “Have to put them in situations that’s right for them. Home games is the right formula for them.”
And one advantage is more home games this year at Rose Hill. That sits good for a young team and so does this confidence and enthusiasm. But a good start is what Fordham is looking for. As for how many wins, just ask Neubauer.
“We got a hunger and eagerness to learn,” he said. “Before Christmas, 10 wins or more,” That is optimism and why not.
Comment: Rich Mancuso [email protected] Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso