Fordham Posts Worst Record in Six Years

After the Departure of Five Seniors, the Young Rams Fell Flat in 2009, Finishing the Year 3-25


Published: March 12, 2009

With a 71-54 loss to the St. Joseph’s Hawks on March 5, the Fordham men’s basketball team ended a disappointing 2008-09 season with a 3-25 record.

The Rams got off to their worst start in school history when they lost their first six games. They had losing streaks of eight and 10 games during the season. The team finished last in the Atlantic 10 conference and went 1-15 in conference play.  Nevertheless, a drop off in wins was to be expected coming into this season.

The team was forced to undergo a  transformation after losing five players to graduation. Fordham coach Dereck Whittenburg relied heavily on his freshman class to replace the lost scoring. Point guard Jio Fontan and guard Alberto Estwick, both FCRH ’12, who were both teammates at St. Anthony’s High School in Jersey City, had their good and bad days transitioning to the college game.

“We had three or four freshmen this year who played a lot of minutes,” Whittenburg said. “They had a learning curve on the court, and at times their play was inconsistent.”

Injuries to more experienced players wore the team down throughout the season. First, the Rams lost junior guard Brenton Butler, FCRH ’10, for the season after suffering an ankle injury in the Lafayette game in early December. Butler, one of the few Rams on this season’s roster with any real success at Rose Hill, was expected to take on a leadership role for Whittenburg’s young backcourt. Then in early February, the Rams lost senior forward, Chris Bethel, FCRH ’09, to a knee injury against St. Louis.  Many players who did not expect to play a lot of minutes this year were asked to fill the void.

Zack Wing, FCRH ’09, Matt Beck, FCRH ’10, and senior captain Luke Devine, FCRH ’09, were three of the players who did an excellent job of helping the team through the injury crisis.

“I thought for the role that we put them in this year, they made the effort,” Whittenburg said. “They had a great work ethic and showed positive energy out on the court.”

The team had a difficult time playing aggressive, tough defense as they finished dead last in the Atlantic 10 conference in every major defensive category.  They also finished last in points per game, averaging just 61.4 points.

“This is the roughest year I’ve had in my playing and coaching career,” Whittenburg said. “You can sit here and feel sorry for yourself, but you have to improve. We will have to play more aggressive defense next year. We will have to play smarter.”

However, there were bright spots this season. Guard Mike Moore, FCRH ’11, finished the season scoring 20 points in five out of the last eight games. Fontan will most likely be named Atlantic 10 conference rookie of the year with his 15.3 points per game.

Whittenburg feels that there is plenty of optimism to draw from this difficult season.

“We have a good nucleus coming back next year with Alberto and Jio,” Whittenburg said. “We will expect everyone who is returning to the team to improve. I am looking forward to the future. I will forget about this season when I take the plane on my next recruiting trip. Then it will be about recruiting athletes for next season who will make us a team more competitive in nature.”