Jon Severe made strong impression in his Fordham debut, accounting for 15 points and seven rebounds in Rams' 98-80 win over Northwood University. (Photo courtesy of the New York Post)
Fordham head coach Tom Pecora's opening statement:
"Some very good things and some not so very good things, but it's an exhibition game. Obviously, we're playing small, we have bigs hurt and we put in a couple of the small lineups this week, and we still rebounded the ball fairly well. You're going to get certain things out of it. I think it's probably the first time we had 17 assists and only seven turnovers, so that's an upside of playing small. We were concerned about rebounding and them posting us, and they did a decent job on the post ups. I told the guys afterwards, the term we use is 'the good, the bad and the ugly' when we're watching film. There were some very good things, obviously, scoring 96 (actually 98) points, I don't care who you're playing, it's a good thing. The bad is (that) we gave up 80. The ugly will be a couple of plays in the middle of that. We came out of a timeout and my heart almost came out of my mouth because half the guys were in zone, half the guys were in man-to-man, but that's what happens early in the season. It can't happen. You want to make those mistakes now so you don't continue making them when it matters. I thought offensively it was much more seamless when you're playing the way we played with the four guards, but everybody played within themselves for the most part. We picked each other up. Jon (Severe) had a rough night shooting the ball, but there's going to be nights when Jon can't miss, we know that. His teammates, the veterans, did a great job, I thought Bryan Smith did an exceptional job playing as one of a number of guys that gets the four spot."
On whether or not Fordham will play more of an uptempo style:
"Yeah, very much so, we'd like to. You're not going to play slow, the advantage is there should be fewer turnovers whether you're playing fast or slow at the end. It's tough for me, my relationship with Coach (Rollie) Massimino, he's like my father, so I was trying to win the game by eight, or ten, kind of, but not really. We've got to learn how to win, too. At the end, I would have liked to run our delay game a little bit more and have these guys work on that, but we can really search out mismatches if teams continue to play big and you're playing this way, and now with this new hand check rule, there were a lot of fouls called. Eddie Corbett, who's the best referee in America, doing the game, he's a buddy of mine, he said 'Tommy, there were a lot called, we could have called twenty more.' You've got to put the ball on the deck, you've got to spread the floor."
On Jon Severe (15 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals):
"I always tell him to get a hand up defensively, I didn't tell him to keep shooting, I don't think I ever have to tell him that. You press sometimes when you miss a few. The thing is, he's not a catch-shoot guy. He's not a guy who can just shoot the ball, he can put it on the floor and get by people, and people are going to know about him, just like they do with (Branden) Frazier and Mandell (Thomas) and Bryan Smith, and they're going to close out really hard on him, and when people do that, you've got to punish them and go by them. I thought we did a good job of that, and our bigs did a good job for the most part making catches off of penetration and scoring. They obviously were in foul trouble for a good portion of the night."
On Travion Leonard (17 points, 6 rebounds in 22 minutes):
"He's got a great skill set. The thing that impressed me most about him, for you guys that were here last year: Think about it: Last year, he couldn't play three minutes without being exhausted, you know? He really made some effort plays, he blocked a couple of shots late in his stretch, and we're really looking at playing him four, five, six minutes at a clip, depending on the pace of the game. I thought he got a couple of big rebounds. He was gassed and didn't make a couple of plays he could have made, but I thought he did a pretty good job (out) of the big guys. He had six rebounds and I thought that was pretty good, I mean, Bryan Smith had 10 rebounds. That's good stuff."
On concern of frontcourt dealing with foul trouble:
"I don't think a ton of the bigs' fouls were on hand checks, I think there were a couple of plays where they were battling in the post, and they were lazy and brought their hands down. This new rule is supposed to be about perimeter play and guards hand checking there. Every year, they talk about cleaning up post play, they call it in November and December, and then in February, it's hand-to-hand combat. Is this rule going in that direction, or are they going to stay the course and really punish guys for putting their hands on people? It'll be interesting to see how this plays out."
On playing four guards more often:
"Yeah, without a doubt. Why not? Bryan Smith had 10 rebounds, Jon had seven. I think if we team rebound, we're okay. A lot of teams are playing small, and the upside of that, once again, is you don't have to worry a whole lot about pressure, you don't turn the ball over as much. We talk all the time, offense is about spacing and defense is about taking space away. Offense, you want to create space, defense, you want to take space away. By having these guards on the floor, we create more space. That should be good for our post guys, and that should also allow them to drive the ball, and defensively, we're always talking about how we can take space away. It gives us good offensive spacing."
On Bryan Smith (10 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists) and his progression:
"In the end, I thought he was in a great rhythm, and look, Bryan's a junior. Branden and Bryan, I get on more than anybody because I expect great things from them. That's just the way it is in my world, you can only be as good as your seniors. In our case, we have only one who plays a bunch, Khalid (Robinson) gives us some minutes in practice, but because we have so few, I also look at Bryan. I think Ryan Canty's such an emotional player, it's hard for him to do the little things. I've always said 'guards think the game, forwards play it.' That's why when you have these guards playing out there, it's good."
Sophomore guard Mandell Thomas (20 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists):
"I think the coaches always tell me to be more aggressive. My jump shot has been falling lately, unfortunately today, it didn't. I had to find other ways to score, so I attacked more."
Senior guard Branden Frazier (23 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) on Jon Severe:
"He's a big time player, so that's what we need him to do. We need him to score the ball for us and play defense and rebound, and things like that. He has that ability to bring that every night. We're not looking at him like he's a freshman, we're looking at him like Jon Severe can do this, this and this to help our team win. We hold him accountable for it every day."
Frazier on being more physical:
"It's going to be a long season. We've just got to get in the weight room and get stronger, and it's going to show in games."
Frazier on being more assertive and leading by example:
"Just talking to the guys and being like the leader, I want them to follow me and know that all the guards should just be aggressive. We saw the four guards today, so I thought I should just crash (the boards) a little more."
Jon Severe on his Fordham debut:
"We run every day in practice, so I was in shape. I just couldn't make a shot, but I tried to just keep playing the game. It's coming along good. I think we make practice harder than the game, so when the game starts, I feel more comfortable."
Pecora's overall assessment:
"We've got a lot of work to do. I enjoy going to practice every day with these guys, and in spite of what our record was last year, I went through the summer knowing we would have great improvements, obviously with the addition of Jon and the other freshmen, but just knowing how hard these guys have worked. Tra(vion Leonard)'s down 90 pounds, think about that. That's commitment, and I feel good about it."
On getting a win against Northwood, who beat Fordham two years ago:
"Look, two years ago, they played in the national championship game on the NAIA level, they were really good. Coach Massimino, he's as good as it gets, so you know he devised a good game plan, he made us make adjustments during the course of the game, so it was good for us in that sense. We try to search out teams that are going to make us better."
On junior forward Ryan Canty:
"He's alright, he's got a nagging back, but he's just got to stay out of silly foul trouble. When I look at the minutes, he's the guy I'd like to get up to 15 minutes a game, and then we'd have seven, eight guys playing double-digit minutes. That's what we need, we need him in the game and we need him to rebound."
Nuggets of Note:
- First and foremost, five Rams ended the night in double figures, led by 23 points from Branden Frazier. In addition to the senior guard, Mandell Thomas had 20 points, Travion Leonard 17, Jon Severe 15 in his Rose Hill debut, and Bryan Smith chipped in with a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds.
- Fordham took advantage of the 56 combined fouls, going 37-for-42 at the free throw line; 22-of-23 in the second half, compared to 19-of-30 for Northwood.
- Always a strong point for a Tom Pecora team, the Ram backcourt was the star of the show on the offensive end. The trio of Frazier, Thomas and Severe accounted for 58 of Fordham's 98 points, with Bryan Smith adding ten more despite playing out of position at the forward spot.
- Held out of practice throughout most of October with a herniated disc in his back, Travion Leonard looked like he was back at 100 percent, ending the night with 17 points in 22 minutes, including a perfect 7-of-7 performance at the foul line.
- In his first game in a Fordham uniform, Jon Severe had a rough go of it from the field, shooting 4-of-16, but the freshman made up for it on the defensive end, chipping in with seven rebounds and three steals. Severe gets massive hype for his offensive capabilities, but it is what he does to facilitate that will set him apart.
- Finally, Bryan Smith has come back in full force after a broken hand sidelined him late in the season last year. Seeing minutes at the four spot due to a smaller lineup, the junior guard's double-double was an understated part of Fordham's victory tonight, underscoring Tom Pecora's belief that Smith is an integral part of every big win. The Brooklyn native also added five assists and three steals to his stat-filling line, giving him the inside track to the Rams' "glue guy" role.