Winter Preview: Men’s Basketball Looks Upward


Fordham Men’s Basketball will try to improve after the struggles of the past two seasons. (MacKenzie Cranna/The Fordham Ram)

Head coach Jeff Neubauer and the Fordham men’s basketball team both come into the upcoming 2019–2020 season, quite frankly, with little to no expectations to make noise in the Atlantic 10 Conference.

When the preseason poll was released last week, the Rams from Rose Hill were chosen to finish last in the A-10. And who could blame the voters? Especially considering the fact that Fordham will be looking to avoid finishing at the bottom for a third consecutive season when it opens up at home on Nov. 5 against St. Francis College of Brooklyn.

Last season, the Rams got off to an auspicious start, concluding its non-conference schedule with a record of 9–4. Unfortunately, once conference play commenced and the level of competition increased, Fordham would lose its first eight games en route to a 3–15 finish in the A-10. The Rams ultimately went on to finish with an overall record of 12–20, losing to the University of Richmond in the first round of the conference tournament.

Fordham’s off-season did not fare any better. The biggest news over the spring and summer came with the departure of last season’s best player, freshman guard Nick Honor. The team’s leading scorer (15.3 points per game) and member of the A-10 all-rookie team, the promising freshman decided to take his talents and transfer to the University of Clemson, leaving a huge void at the point guard position.

This season, Neubauer plans on re-configuring his offensive and defensive strategies by leaning heavily on its front court. The fifth-year coach will look to transition into becoming an even more conventional halfcourt defensive team. “We have to put pressure on the rim via our bigger players, and we did not do that last year,” he said.

The aforementioned frontcourt will return with perhaps the two most athletic players on the team, redshirt junior forward Chuba Ohams and sophomore Onyi Eyisi, who both showed flashes of excellence as defensive anchors last year. However, they will be asked to do so on a consistent basis this year, as well as take more initiative on the offensive end.

“This year, we’re going to play inside out,” Neubauer said. “We’re going to throw the ball inside, and that will make everyone better. That’s really what I’m selling, not only to Jalen [Cobb] and to Antwon [Portley], but to the whole team.”

For Fordham’s backcourt of sophomore Jalen Cobb and senior Antwon Portley, the new strategy on offense should open up more perimeter shots for two capable three-point shooters. Portley was the squad’s most efficient shooter last season and was dubbed “the team’s most consistent player” by Neubauer. The coach doubled down on the compliment by adding, “I literally made a list in my office [Wednesday] of who I trust on the basketball court. Who is most likely to do what we need to do to win? He’s at the top of that list every time.”

Looking forward, the Rams should enjoy success in their non-conference schedule again. Nine of those games will be played the newly-renovated Rose Hill gymnasium so the expectation is that Fordham will enter A-10 play on a positive note again. The only question looming now is what the Rams can do in-conference. Luckily, Fordham has nowhere to go but up.