(Credit: Vinny Dusovic)
The 2012-13 college basketball season didn’t start out particularly well for Fordham coach Tom Pecora.
Not only did the Rams lose their first three games of the season, but senior forward Chris Gaston had to undergo an arthroscopic procedure on his knee on November 16.
While the surgery was minor, losing an Atlantic 10 first team performer that has led the team in scoring and rebounding in each of his first three season contributed to a 1-8 start.
“This is uncharted territory for me, I have never been 1-8,” Pecora said before Fordham’s game against Princeton. “We are not a typical 1-8 team. Obviously not only having our senior all-conference player out for a month, but also because we played so many games on the road.”
Just over four weeks after the surgery, Gaston returned to the lineup against Princeton in the Brooklyn Holiday Hoops Festival at the Barclays Center.
The Union City, N.J. native didn’t have his typical eye-popping numbers on the boards, but did score 16 points in 32 minutes and contributed in so many other ways in a come-from-behind 63-60 win over the Tigers.
“I thought he gave us good minutes and he really competed and did some good things for us,” Pecora said. “”Having him on the floor is so important. He knows what we are in and what we are trying to run and can settle us down at different times. On top of that he always plays with great energy. This wasn’t the best Chris Gaston, but his presence was great.”
While Gaston’s return to the lineup energized the Rams, it was junior guard Branden Frazier that sparked the comeback. Trailing 56-46 entering the final media timeout, Frazier went on a personal 13-4 run to cut the Princeton lead to 60-59 with 28 seconds remaining.
After the Tigers’ Clay Wilson missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Frazier dished to Ryan Canty for what proved to be the game-winner as the Princeton defense collapsed on the red-hot Brooklyn native.
“I attacked as much as I could to get into the lane and look for my shot or find the open guy,” Frazier said. “I can tell you Ryan bailed me out on the last one because I was getting ready to up-and-down and saw him at the last minute.”
Playing just blocks from his Bishop Loughlin High School haunts, Frazier scored 17 of his game-high 19 points in the second half to help Fordham earn their second win of the season.
“He just keeps getting better and better,” Pecora said. “I was happy for Branden, he went to school four blocks from here and is a Brooklyn kid. So to come back here and play that way at Barclays is special — especially in the first year in this building.”
With Frazier and Canty playing well and Gaston returning the mix, Pecora is certain better days are on the horizon.
“Obviously we were a team desperate for a win and getting Chris back was a big part of it,” Pecora said. “I feel good about them, I know I am crazy, but we are not a bad team. I think we are getting better every minute.”
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