Retooled Rams Charge Into New Season

Coach Whittenburg Hopes to Mold Crop of Young Talent Into Atlantic 10 Contenders


Published: November 20, 2008

Marcus Stout. Bryant Dunston. That will be the last time the names of those two Rams greats appear in this section. We promise. It is a new year at the old Rose Hill Gym, and a very different scene, as head coach Dereck Whittenburg faces an uphill battle with a (very) young squad and a restructured offense. Fordham may have been picked to finish dead last in the Atlantic 10, but as forward Jacob Green, FCRH ’10, said in an interview with WFUV, “When’s the last time the so-called experts predicted the A-10 exactly right from top to bottom?”

Fordham will likely play three and even four guard sets this year, given the wealth of quick, small shooters on the roster. The front court will be a huge weakness, especially until Green, is eligible to play after transferring in last year, and the young lineup might be shaky defensively. But in the ’07-’08 season, Fordham’s defense was strong, allowing 67 points per game; more often than not, the offense, averaging 64 points per game, could not hold momentum down the stretch.

But it’s tip-off time for this season, and the Fordham squad is generating a lot of excitement. Here is a look at the Rams that should play a major role this year.

Brenton Butler, FCRH ’10

Butler’s breakout came in the form of a surprising 18 point performance against rival Manhattan College his freshman year. But since then, he’s been a streaky shooter at best. Whittenburg is known to let his team shoot at will, but as the junior guard moves into a leadership role with the young Rams, Butler will be called on to run the offense, not just heave up threes. His 66 assists last season show promise, but he also recorded the same number of turnovers. Butler’s maturation will be critical to Fordham’s success.


Herb Tanner, FCRH ’10

The junior guard should move into a starting role this season, and the Rams desperately need his defense success to carry over from last year. In limited minutes, Tanner notched 29 steals in ’07-’08, one shy of the team lead, and he proved his quickness could match up with opponents’ top players. With the Rams forced to rely on the perimeter game this year, Tanner will see a lot of open shots, and he will have to learn when to pull the trigger. Another point to watch—last year’s .421 average from the free-throw line must improve.


Jio Fontan, FCRH ’12

Whittenburg’s prize recruit, the speedy freshman guard led St. Anthony High School (N.J.) to a 32-0 record and a national championship. He’s created a buzz even before stepping on the court, but for Fordham to succeed, Fontan needs to keep the excitement alive after his first few starts. He was an excellent defender in high school, especially on the ball, and should be a good fit for Whittenburg’s restructured defensive looks. Fontan is heralded as a shooter who can pull up and sink a shot from anywhere on the floor, but ball control will be more important for this new Ram.


Trey Blue, FCRH ’12

The aptly-named freshman guard will be critical to the Rams offense this season as the lack of a go-to post presence should stress the importance of outside shooting. Last season, Fordham was ranked next to last with a .323 three point shooting percentage, a stat that needs to change for the ’08-’09 campaign. Blue has earned a reputation as a steady out side shooter, but don’t expect him to shoulder the weight of the offense just yet—he is an untested freshman in a young system. Think development, not domination.


Chris Bethel, FCRH ’09

After appearing in only 11 games as a junior last year, the senior small forward is a question mark coming into 2008. That Bethel is the only tested Rams frontcourt player (29 games his sophomore campaign) only makes his role more important. At 6’5” and 217, Bethel is a bit undersized for forward and will have trouble guarding the Atlantic 10’s elite like Xavier’s Derrick Brown. Even though no one is expecting the brunt of the offense to come from the low post, Bethel can still play a vital role by rebounding, an area Fordham ran hot and cold in last year.


Jacob Green, FCRH ’10

A transfer from West Virginia, Green will not be eligible to play until spring semester, but his long-awaited donning of the maroon and white can not come soon enough. The forward will be a much-needed presence inside. What Bethel lacks in size, the 6’9” Green makes up for, and his 20 blocked shots in 10 games of limited minutes his second year at West Virginia bodes well. Will he be rusty? Probably. But will he be a solid addition? For Fordham’s sake, he had better be.