One of the most accomplished and decorated student-athletes in Fordham basketball history, Damon Lopez was the pivotal player (literally!) in standout Fordham teams in his junior (1989-90) and senior (1990-91) seasons. The 6’9″ center led the Rams to Patriot League regular season and tournament championships, earning conference Player of the Year honors as well as Fordham’s Vincent T. Lombardi Award as the male athlete of the year as a senior, averaging 17.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game on a team that went 25-8, one shy of the school record set 20 years earlier.
A native of the Bronx, Lopez grew up in the shadows of the campus that just a few years later would be his collegiate home. Now living in Brooklyn, Lopez took a few minutes to talk about his years at Rose Hill and beyond.
Rebounders Club: You’re a kid from the Bronx, not far from school, and you ended up in the Fordham Hall of Fame. Talk about that journey that got you there.
Damon Lopez: I grew up on 181st St. and Clinton, basically 20 blocks from Fordham. I went there for summer sports camps and educational camps. Family members graduated from there. I was always a Fordham fan, we went to Fordham basketball games. Somehow, it seems like I was predestined to go to Fordham, from age six.
I’d walk up Fordham Road, see the pillars, then go to the games and see the names on the wall and say one day my name would be there. And it happened.
RC: The Patriot League released its All-Time 25th Anniversary team, and even though Fordham was only in the league for one of your years (1990-91), and hasn’t been in the conference for more than two decades, you were still selected. Where do you rate that honor in your list of accolades?
DL: I’d say elated is the word. To think of all the players over that time, a lot of them put in a lot more work, for them to still remember me and put me in there, that’s special. I don’t know what to say other than it’s a tremendous honor.
RC: Take us back to 1990-91, that might be the best Fordham basketball team ever, rivaling the 1970-71 squad. Besides talent, what made that team special?
DL: I think what made it special was that we all meshed together. On the court, we were brothers. I transfered in [from Westchester CC] my sophomore year, but we all learned from the seniors, guys like Joe Paterno, Doug Bantum, Greg Pedro—those guys were there to take us under their wing, show us what to do. I didn’t play a lot my first year, I mostly rode the bench, did what [Coach] Nick [Macarchuk] said. But when the time came guys like Steve Breen, Sanford Jenkins, Jean Prioleau, Dewey Stinson, Mike Rice, we were together for three years, we grew up together, and we were ready.
Like any family, we’d argue off the court sometimes, but on the court, we were brothers. Nine times out of 10, we were brothers off the court too (laughs).
DL: Mostly good guys (laughs). Well… “The Source.” I’d play in summer tournaments, I was the “source” of anything funny, the “source” of blocked shots and rebounds, the “source” of everything! So after my first game [at Fordham], [a classmate who worked in the SID office] came into the locker room, talking about the game, getting to know me. So I talked about that summer league and being “the source,” and the next thing I knew [the media] picked up on it and I was “The Source.”
RC: What are some of your off-the-court memories of Fordham?
DL: Wow, so many… I remember just walking on campus, my first day there as a student. Just seeing everything, it was a different feeling from the other times I had been there. The grass was greener, it smelled fresher it was a different feel. As a kid, everyone there was an adult, but now YOU are a student.
And I remember the people I met, many good friends to this day. Great coaches, great professors. And the fans… I’d be walking up and down Fordham Road, and people would stop me and say, “You’re Damon Lopez, you play for Fordham.” It would shock me because it wasn’t St. John’s or Seton Hall, it was Fordham, but they knew. I think in some ways we brought the Bronx together.
RC: After you graduated, you were in some NBA camps and ended up playing eight years overseas, what was that experience like?
DL: In a word… unique. I got to go to so many different countries and cities that I’d never imagined in my wildest dreams I’d ever get to. Croatia, Turkey, Greenland, the Canary Islands. I remember in the Canary Island I met this old man who became a good friend, I used to spend time with his grandsons. I gave him a Fordham sweatshirt, this is more than 20 years ago, and I recently got a letter from his grandsons that he had passed away, but that he never forgot me and always followed Fordham, however he could. And he still had that sweatshirt.