For the first time in more than 50 years, the Fordham Rams are off to an 11-1 start to a season.
The path to success in the Bronx has been a bumpy one over the past few years and for first-year head coach Keith Urgo, that success doesn’t come without former head coach Kyle Neptune laying the groundwork in 2021.
At 16-16, Neptune led this program to just its third finish of .500 or above since 2006, and at eighth place in the Atlantic-10, it marked the program’s best season in conference play since 2016. And he did it all in just one season in charge at Fordham, with Neptune taking over after nine years as Jay Wright’s assistant at Villanova.
But with Urgo now succeeding Neptune, he’s elevated Fordham to another level.
According to Urgo, leadership and chemistry are what’s made all the difference, and, in particular, both Darius Quisenberry and Khalid Moore have been key to this newfound success.
“We’ve got two fantastic leaders [in Quisenberry and Moore] that have got some great experience,” Urgo said. “These guys have played a lot of basketball and came [to Fordham] to do something a little bit different that’s never been done and they’ve achieved that already.”
What Urgo is referring to is all the program records that have already been shattered this year, including their most successful start since 1970-71, maintaining an undefeated 10-0 run at the Rose Hill Gym, and averaging their highest points per game total since joining the A-10.
Your Fordham Rams are on a 10-game winning streak for the first time since 1991! pic.twitter.com/OPHOeTMUXJ— Fordham Basketball (@FordhamMBB) December 11, 2022
This transition began with the arrival of Quisenberry, who joined Fordham following three years at Youngstown State and instantly became a leader. In his lone season under Neptune, Quisenberry finished second in points per game and first in minutes played to earn an A-10 Preseason All-Conference Third Team Selection.
Moore has been Urgo’s impact transfer returning home to New York after four seasons with Georgia Tech. He’s averaging 15.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game for the Rams and managed a career-high 25 points in a recent 90-77 victory over Central Connecticut State.
With Quisenberry getting a year under his belt at the Rose Hill Gym and Moore arriving from a Power-5 program, the duo have been dynamic this year and Urgo made it clear several times that he credits their presence and leadership as a major reason for this turnaround.
“Last year, I thought we were a top down organization and this year leadership is coming from within that locker room and I think that’s the biggest thing so far,” he said.
Not only has Urgo seen it on the court but with a Rams roster that has some youth, it’s clear that Quisenberry and Moore really understand what’s required of them as the only two graduate seniors.
For these two, it’s been a natural fit and Quisenberry and Moore have kept their message to the underclassmen simple throughout the early season.
“Just focus on the little things,” Quisenberry said. “Focus on being the best you can be with the time you have and play as hard as you can. If you get tired, come out and coach will put you right back in but just try to give your all for your brothers out there.”
While creating a locker room culture that thrives on leadership has been crucial to the development Fordham has seen, the play inside the Rose Hill Gym is the biggest difference fans will notice.
Undoubtedly things are going to plan for Fordham this season as they head into a small break before welcoming VMI to The Bronx on Dec. 22 and beginning A-10 (which, let’s be honest, has been a big, beautiful mess so far) play the following week.
When asked about plans for the week off, Urgo says he’s excited about where his team currently sits and will focus on rest, health, and relaxation with a few practices mixed in under the guidance of his leadership pair.
“Our leadership is both on and off the court so I don’t worry as much about [the players] but just trying to improve our bodies and our minds as much as possible,” Urgo said. “We haven’t had a ton of practice time so we’ll get a couple days off and then we’ve got to get back to the grind and we need to get a little better at a number of different things.”