Rhoomes, out of Cardozo, picks Fordham over big names

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Ryan Rhoomes described the last year of his life as hell. Instead of starting his college career at TCU, he was back home in Middleton, N.Y., working two jobs and using his sparse free time to stay in shape.

If not for the lost year, however, Rhoomes might not have chosen Fordham, as he did on Friday.

“I look at things different now,” said the former Cardozo basketball standout, who was one of six NIA prep players declared academically ineligible last summer when the NCAA refused to approve classes from the Newark, N.J., school.

Instead of getting caught up in big names, such as interested parties like St. John’s, Seton Hall and Temple, Rhoomes looked for the place that suited him best, where he would be the most valuable and used properly. That place was Fordham, a guard-heavy program in need of a forward like the 6-foot-9 Rhoomes.

“I could’ve gone to a big-name school, but you have to look at yourself, how you play,” he said. “At Fordham I can do what I have to do to get better and play. I was looking at my situation. I felt like Fordham is the best bet.”

Rhoomes was comfortable with Fordham for several reasons. At the top of the list, the team is full of city standouts he is familiar with, from former John F. Kennedy star Jeffrey Short to Boys & Girls’ Lamount Samuell and Midwood’s Bryan Smith. He talked to all of them on his visit May 1 and left impressed.

“Everything felt right,” he said. “I know how they play, they know how I play. That’s why I decided to go there.”

Then there is the coaching staff, led by head man Tom Pecora and assistant David Duke, a Cardozo alumnus like Rhoomes who was his lead recruiter. When Rhoomes was denied by the NCAA last year, he considered paying tuition for a year of college and Fordham was one of those schools. Duke and Pecora kept in close contact with him when he decided to go back home.

“That made it seem like they really wanted me,” Rhoomes said.

Rhoomes does have work to do, more on the court than off. He still has one online course to make up — he’s taken two already — but he said he has talked to the NCAA and has been told the classes, based out of New Jersey Virtual School, meet their approval. Without playing organized basketball for more than a year, he is in far from basketball shape and when he worked out at Fordham was extremely rusty.

If he can get back to where he was at NIA Prep, Cardozo Coach Ron Naclerio thinks Fordham has a find in his former pupil.

“Tom Pecora just called me and he says Ryan is the best big man he’s ever gotten, whether he was at Hofstra or Fordham,” said Naclerio, who aided Rhoomes in the process. “They need a big guy. One thing they’re gonna find out about Ryan is he’s very efficient down low. He doesn’t take a lot of shots. He’s a team player. He’s gonna rebound, he knows how to play. He runs the court.”

The coach added, “Two years from now, he can be vying for all-Atlantic 10 honors.”

Rhoomes isn’t worried about two years down the road. He’s focused on the present, passing his final class and helping Fordham move up in the Atlantic 10. His year away from basketball made him realize how important it was to him.

“It made me a stronger person,” he said. “I don’t want to be home not playing basketball.”

Fordham couldn’t be happier he got his priorities in order.

Posted 12:00 am, May 15, 2012
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