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Anatomy of a Road Trip - Day 2

by Tom Felice
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 Pittsburgh...At Last!

 

Tom Felice, one of the voices of the Rams on WFUV is chronicling the men's basketball holiday trip to Georgia and California. 

 

Basketball is a game of numbers. Rebounds, turnovers, dollars, and most importantly points make up the results of every game. These numbers are scrutinized by coaches, fans and the media, hoping to find empirical reasons for the crucial numbers, those in the win and loss columns. The first two days of the Fordham Men’s Basketball road trip has had plenty of numbers, but none of them on the court.

5 hotels, 4 rest stops, 3 movies, 2 buses and 1 unexpected guest.

Lets start from the beginning.

After the cancellation of the game at Georgia Tech, the Rams started making their way towards Pittsburgh. Accommodations were set up there, after they were deleted in Atlanta. As weather conditions worsened, the Director of Basketball Operations Mike DePaoli contacted a hotel along the New Jersey Turnpike. Fordham made it past that hotel. As the bus huffed and puffed into Princeton, New Jersey, plans were made to stay at one hotel, but Fordham couldn’t even make it that far, and hotel number five became home.

Fordham made a quick stop in New Jersey on Sunday, but the rest stop fun would be had on Monday. Three hours into Fordham’s westward trek on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the bus pulled off into a rest area. As soon as the bus door opened, a worker stepped on to tell us the rest stop had no power, there was another stop 31 miles down the road. The team moved on to the next one. This one was full. The Pride of Wildcat Land, the Kansas State Marching band and its 300 plus members were inside, pausing on their trip from Manhattan, Kansas to the Bronx, New York for the Pinstripe Bowl. Fordham was not about to wait in line, so it was back on the bus. Finally the Rams found refuge at the Midway rest area.

Yesterdays issues with The Departed were well documented here. To date the team has still not seen the end of the movie. When the team got on the bus this morning there was a familiar face waiting for them, a former freshman basketball player at Fordham, Denzel Washington. The team watched his 2004 film, Man on Fire. Since the bus was never expected to go any farther than Queens, the movie selection was slim. Coach Tom Pecora made the only purchase at the rest stop with the Kansas State band, buying the film Pride and Glory to close out Fordham’s movie triple-header. All three movies featured corrupt police, which made at least one person on the bus a little leery. 

With the mechanical problems the Fordham bus had yesterday, there was no way that vehicle was going to make it to Pittsburgh. Eddy the Bus Driver, a familiar face to the Pecora staff from their Hofstra days, arranged for a new bus to be sent. By the time the team sat down to their 9 am breakfast, a new motorcoach was waiting for them in the parking lot. This one made it all the way to Pittsburgh without even needing to stop for gas. 

Now the unexpected guest. On Sunday, snow had been an unwanted visitor. The snow not only delayed Fordham’s trip, thousands were stranded along the east coast. Among them was Lijah Thompson, a sophomore forward at Robert Morris. A Philadelphia native, he was trying to get to Pittsburgh just like Fordham. The Rams agreed to take him there. But just like in the movies Fordham watched, there would be a ransom.

The unexpected day off meant Fordham needed a place to practice. Mike Byrnes is a first year assistant coach at Robert Morris. He had previously coached at Winchendon Prep, where he had Marvin Dominique on his team. Coach Byrnes and coach Pecora have a good relationship, and it was set, Fordham would drive Thompson to Pittsburgh, and then they would practice at Robert Morris. There are connections everywhere in the game. 

Fordham arrived at the Pittsburgh Airport Marriott around 4. When the team got together in the lobby to take the bus to practice, another familiar face was in the lobby of the hotel. Ed Corbett, a long time college basketball referee was in town for the top ten matchup between UCONN and Pittsburgh. Corbett refereed Fordham in their games against Sacred Heart and Manhattan earlier this season, and is a familiar face to basketball fans throughout the country. He had a nice conversation with coach Pecora before he departed for the Big East opener. There are connections everywhere in the game. 

When Fordham got to Robert Morris, the Colonials Women’s basketball team was wrapping up practice. As the Rams stretched and Robert Morris cleared the floor, Rayner Moquette said a quick word to a friend he hadn’t expected to see. Yohanna Morton is a senior guard for the Colonials, and like Moquette, she hails from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Neither had any idea where the other person played college ball, but they remembered each other from home. There are connections everywhere in the game. 

The connections Fordham finds tomorrow are currently unknown, but there will be plenty of time to find them. A 4 am wakeup call awaits, as the Rams prepare for multiple flights west to San Fransisco, with connections in places like Washington D.C., Chicago and Denver.  So for today, mark off Big 12 marching band, closed rest stop and college basketball referee from the New York metro area on your travel BINGO card. Fordham plans to make it to California tomorrow and hold practice late in the day as they prepare to face American University on Wednesday. You can find out how travel day three of the Fordham trip turns out right here on wfuv.org/sports.