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Bulls lock horns with Rams in season opener

To say the last calendar year has been tumultuous for Fordham and coach Bob Hill would be a gross understatement.After sprinting to an 11-6 start to the 2000-01 campaign that included an 81-72 victory at home against USF, the wheels fell off the Fordham bus down the stretch and the Rams limped to a 1-11 finish.

The good news heading into this season was the Rams returned three starters. The bad news was the two losses were guards Bevon Robin, the second-leading scorer in school history, and Jason Harris, Fordham’s all-time leader in three pointers. Hill signed heralded freshman Glenn Batemon, a 6-foot-11, 350-pound space-eater, this year only to find out he would be ineligible because he did not meet the minimum NCAA qualifying SAT score.

With a pair of transfers and an outstanding incoming group of freshmen, including budding schoolyard legend guard Adrian Walton, the Rams were picked by many preseason publications to make the NCAA Tournament. Fordham lost its opener 70-61 to DePaul. To boot, Hill missed the game due to minor surgery.Starting to see a pattern?

The USF men’s basketball team hopes Hill and the Rams’ tumultuous year continues when they tip off with Fordham in the Bulls’ season-opener tonight at 7:30 in the Sun Dome.

“Fordham’s a good team,” coach Seth Greenberg said. “If you look at the magazines, a lot of people think they are going to be in the NCAA Tournament.”

If that bit of prognostication is to come true, the Rams will have to play decidedly better than they did against the Blue Demons. Despite DePaul shooting an abominable 3-of-26 from behind the three-point line, Fordham turned the ball over 25 times and didn’t connect on a three-pointer all night.

“They’re a little inexperienced in the backcourt and they turned it over some,” Greenberg said. “But a week from now I’m sure they will be a little bit more experienced.”

The Rams will attempt to replace Robin and Harris with transfers Smush Parker and Mark Jarrell-Wright and Walton, who beat Toronto Raptor Vince Carter 33-31 in a one-on-one game in a summer league. Parker scored 13 against DePaul, but the turnovers and poor outside shooting proved to be a lethal combination.

The strength of the Rams is their frontcourt, which features sophomore Jeff McMillan (6-foot-8, 250 pounds) and senior Duke Freeman-McKamey (6-10, 240). McMillan torched the Bulls last season in their meeting at Madison Square Garden for 16 points (7-of-8 from the field) and eight rebounds.

“McMillan really hurt us last year … he physically dominated,” Greenberg said. “When he wasn’t in foul trouble, he hurt us and we’re going to have to keep him off the glass.”

McMillan recorded a double-double against DePaul, scoring 16 points and grabbing 15 boards.

After starting the season off on the wrong foot, the Rams did receive a bit of good news Thursday when the NCAA returned full eligibility to Batemon. Due to a documented, preexisting learning disability, the NCAA waived Batemon’s SAT requirement and he will make his college debut tonight against the Bulls.

  • Brandon Wright covers men’s basketball and can be reached at