BY DAVID RUSSELL
South Jamaica product and former Cardozo standout Ryan Rhoomes has signed a pro contract to play for Saint-Quentin Aisne in France.
“To have such a great senior year, I’m really happy for him,” Fordham head coach Jeff Neubauer said. “Now to be rewarded with a pro contract from a good league in France, it’s a chance to continue to play the game he loves.”
Neubauer added, “A year ago, if you told him he’d have a pro contract, I don’t think he would’ve believed you.”
The NCAA didn’t accept several classes that Rhoomes took at NIA Prep and the Cardozo big man ended up working a retail job. His story could’ve ended there, but Fordham came by to recruit him. Rhoomes was playing college ball, but the first three seasons for Rhoomes at Fordham saw a lot of losing. He was playing for Tom Pecora and the Rams’ record in those three seasons was 27-66. “As with many players we inherited, they had been subjected to so much losing,” Neubauer said. “It was apparent that guys have suffered. It was apparent in how they approached things and came to the gym. The reason for success was the seniors came to the gym with the right attitude. It took a long time to convince them they could win.”
There were also issues in Rhoomes’ individual game. “There were things I wanted him to work on in high school that he didn’t really want to work on,” said Ron Naclerio, the head coach at Cardozo.
The hiring of Neubauer was a big key to Rhoomes’ breakout performance in his senior season, a season that saw him lead the team in points and rebounds. “Pecora was more guard-oriented and Ryan was doing more screening,” Naclerio said. “Neubauer was more about pounding it in the half-court and dropping it inside to Ryan.”
Rhoomes became more than just a defensive presence; he helped the Rams finish with a winning record for only the second time since 1991. Rhoomes set the school record for single-season shooting percentage. “The most important thing is how he has learned,” Neubauer said. “Twelve months ago he literally had no post game. He was always a terrific rebounder and good defender. We taught him how to be patient in the post and one-on-one post plays. He used the great body he already had and could score against defenders.”
It was like a different Ryan Rhoomes was on the court for Fordham last year. “Sometimes, unfortunately, a bad situation makes a good player look not so good,” Naclerio said. “If he had four years like he had last year, who knows?”
Naclerio went to two Fordham games last season, which happened to be two of Rhoomes’ best performances, including a dominating win over Naclerio’s alma mater, St. John’s. “He was mad at me for not going to more games,” Naclerio said.
Now Rhoomes gets to play professionally after a great senior season. “I definitely appreciate the group of seniors we had last year,” Neubauer said. “We were able to persevere and stick with it when things got tough because of those seniors. Guys grew to believe in themselves, which they really didn’t think they could do.”