Senior Mandell Thomas has seen plenty of struggles in his three seasons at Fordham, but his new head coach Jeff Neubauer wants to wipe the slate clean.“Right now it’s a lot of positivity, everything is fresh,” Thomas said of their approach in practice. “Everything from past seasons is going out the window.”
“This is my last year, so me and others, we are very excited for everything that’s from the past seasons out the window. Everything is starting fresh, so that’s motivating.”
It is hard to escape the past for Thomas, who became the 35th player in school history to surpass the 1,000 point mark. However, he would like to erase the struggles of the last two seasons, where they lost six conference games by one possession and collected two 21-loss seasons.
Neubauer has come in and preached defensive effort for a team that ranked 203rd in the country in defensive efficiency. The new approach should help emphasize some of Thomas’ strengths, as he led the team in steals (73) last season.
“Last year he averaged over two steals a game on a team that didn’t play aggressive defensively,” Neubauer said. “I think our system defensively should be very good for him.”
Thomas will also play the role of veteran leader for the six newcomers on the Rams roster that he has said has been very competitive. While the 6’2″ senior has picked up the system quickly, he hopes some of his past experience can help get the younger players up to speed.
“I know going into my freshman year, it was nerve-wracking, but I had a group of upperclassmen I grew up with,” Thomas said. “Young guys look up to me and some of the upperclassmen, we point them in the right direction, and hopefully during the season they feel more confident and play their game.”
As Fordham’s returning leading scorer, Thomas will get plenty of attention on opponents’ scouting reports, but he is not worried. He has worked on his ball handling over the summer and put in work to improve his jump shot. He said he felt he was too streaky and inconsistent, after making 42.4% of his two-pointers and 35.1% of his three-point attempts a year ago, but the most important category Thomas wants to improve is not individual.
“[I’ve] got to figure out other ways to help my team,” Thomas said. “It don’t always have to be scoring, it could be running on screens, seeing the big man open, assists or something like that.”
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2015-16 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.