Every Atlantic 10 junkie’s favorite two days of the year are upon us once again, and with them, the first glimpse at where our favorite 14 programs are mentally and strategically. For Fordham Hoops fans, this was their first glimpse at how the Kyle Neptune regime has prepared during the offseason. What were the biggest takeaways from today’s press conference, and how have Coach Neptune, Chuba Ohams, and Josh Navarro set the tone for this season with their season opening statements?
In terms of describing the type of basketball he wants to coach at Fordham, Neptune was very focused on the word “grit.” While he talked about kicking the ball out to the paint, as well as maintaining the defensive intensity established under Jeff Neubauer, Neptune stressed the mental and physical toughness that he’s ingrained into his players this offseason.
“We want to walk off the court every game knowing that we were the tougher team,” Neptune outlined. “Whether we win by 20 or we lose by 20, we’ll be happy as long as we are as tough as we can be.”
In order to build that identity, Coach Neptune described how that mantra dictated his recruitment process so far this season. When screening the 11 newcomers to this team, Neptune and his staff made sure that each one was a “basketball player,” meaning not only someone that was strong or fast, but a student of the game, who would be willing to take the time to improve their game every time they entered the court, gym, or film room. Several transfers brought in this season encapsulate this mantra according to Neptune, most notably Youngstown State transfer Darius Quisenberry.
“He’s an offensive juggernaut. He does so much on the offensive side of the ball,” Neptune said. “He makes great ball screens, he reads, he’s very aggressive. He’s been huge for us so far, especially as an older guy in a leadership position.”
Looking (not too far) ahead, Neptune outlined his vision for recruiting new players to Fordham. As a native New Yorker, and with a staff full of “East Coast guys,” Neptune is confident in his ability to pull talent from some of the best basketball cities in the country via the transfer portal as well as from high schools. By doing this, Fordham can once again be a marquee New York men’s basketball program.
Until then, the Rams will just have to stay gritty.
Chuba Ohams and Josh Navarro
Along with Junior Guard Kyle Rose, Graduates Chuba Ohams (Forward) and Josh Navarro (Guard) are the only returning players from last year’s squad. With their knowledge of the Fordham program, as well as the mantra that Neptune described, Ohams and Navarro have not felt any pressure in taking on leadership roles. In terms of helping getting their new coach acclimated to Rose Hill, Ohams described it as a relatively smooth process.
“That’s a guy from New York City, he’s familiar with Fordham,” Ohams said. “There wasn’t much help needed.”
Instead of showing Neptune the ropes at Fordham, Ohams, who entered and subsequently withdrew from last year’s transfer portal, talked with his new head coach about his vision for the team. After seeing the potential of this new Fordham program, Ohams decided to finish his collegiate career at Fordham.
“As soon as he got the job we spoke,” Ohams described. “Some of the conversations we had were [about] how much he could develop me as a player, and even more so, how much he could develop me as a man. That was the one thing that stuck out to me; he didn’t just care about me as a basketball player. He wanted to mature me for the outside world.”
Despite the staggering amount of new faces, Josh Navarro didn’t feel like the newcomers struggled in adjusting to Fordham. With three upperclassmen transfers, Navarro seemed confident that the team could play high level, cohesive basketball right out of the gate.
“We have a pretty mature team,” Navarro said. “It’s not like he recruited a bunch of freshmen that need to start from square one.”
The Rams are fresh, the Rams are experienced, and the Rams are hungry. Ranked dead last in the preseason poll, Fordham men’s basketball can do nothing but improve. Whether that means a deep run in the tournament, or just a better record than last year, Kyle Neptune’s Fordham Rams will be successful as long as they’re synonymous with one word: grit.