When it comes to winners in Fordham basketball history, it’s hard to beat 1993 graduate and all-time leader in assists (548) Jay Fazande. The pass-first point guard played with numerous 1000-point scorers and knew how to use them, helping the Rams to 78 wins, still the most of any four-year period in Rams history since before Rose Hill Gym opened in 1925. Fordham collected two Patriot League titles, two NIT appearances and the school’s only NCAA berth in the past 48 years during the New Orleans’ native’s run in the Bronx.
All those assists didn’t mean there wasn’t a complete player wearing #4. Fazande was a standout defender, and while he didn’t attempt that many shots, he was extremely efficient, making 11 of 26 threes (42%) as a junior in 1991-92 and a sizzling 34 of 65 (52%) behind the arc a year later.
Fazande’s post-Fordham career took him to Ireland, where he played professionally and ended up staying for the nearly three decades since, now running basketball programs for both boys and girls there, playing in age-group leagues and keeping in touch with the game back in the U.S., following the Rams from afar.
Fazande took some time from his Dublin home to discuss his Fordham career, what it was like playing for Nick Macarchuk and with numerous other Fordham all-time greats, and his time on the Emerald Isle since.
Rebounders Club: You played on some of the best teams in Fordham history – what was it like to be part of those amazing squads?
Jay Fazande: For me, it was a great opportunity to be in New York City. Coming from New Orleans, when I was recruited, I didn’t really know much about Fordham, but, as my dad said, if I could succeed there, win there, win the city, I’d have great opportunities when I graduated. I got used to winning in high school [De La Salle, New Orleans] so I expected to win when I got to Fordham.
RC: You mentioned New Orleans, which is not normally an area that attracts many Fordham students. How did you get to Rose Hill from The Big Easy?
JF: On my visit, I had a great time. Damon Lopez was my host. I visited Baylor, Ole Miss, Cal, South Florida and Fordham as my five official visits. Fitz [then-Assistant Coach John Fitzpatrick] came out to see me play a lot. My dad said that of course it was my decision but as I looked at it more, Fordham looked more attractive. I knew I’d have a chance to play sooner. It was the right call.
RC: What did attending Fordham mean to you and what has it meant since graduation?
JF: I’m proud to be a Fordham alum. I see people on TV, from Denzel [Washington] to Tony Reali and others, I’m proud of the association. It’s different being in a different country, but there are Americans here that I know from different schools. Plus I go to some Fordham events here, and I’m in touch with [former Fordham women’s basketball standouts and Ireland natives] Suzanne Maguire and Emeir Howard. It’s mostly the experiences and the people that made it special to me, the friendships i made.
RC: You came to the team in the midst of a really veteran squad, but by your Junior year you were the team leader. How was that transition and what did you do to make those teams yours?
JF: To me, the most influential guys were Mike Rice and Jean Prioleau. Mike wasn’t the best player, but if you didn’t work, he let you know about it. He made you be the best player you could be. Those of us that know him best and played with him know he’s a great person, he really cared about pushing everyone to be better. Jean pushed me to get to the next level. I wondered then, ‘why is he guarding me full court [in practice], bullying me?’ It’s because he knew I needed to know how to handle that when the opponents were doing it. He made me better. And Coach Fitz, he sat me down and told me, ‘you’re a better player, you have more responsibility, we need you to do this, do that.’ Somewhere around the middle to the end of my freshman year, I started to realize I could play.
RC: Is there a special pride in being the all-time leader in assists?
JF: I think the line the coaches said went something like ‘you have nine, 1000 points scorers, don’t shoot.’ And I get it, the guys I played with were borderline NBA players, Danny O’Sullivan, Fred Herzog, Damon Lopez, Sanford Jenkins, Dave Buckner, Andre McClendon just to name a few. If people are open, get them the ball in position to score and they will. As the point guard, I could keep people on their games. If one guy wasn’t rebounding, wasn’t defending, I could look somewhere else on offense. They let me speak to them like that, we had that kind of relationship. That helped me be a leader.
RC: It seems like that takes a lot of maturity, not just from you but your teammates. At age 18-19-20, you all had that maturity, that’s very impressive.
JF: Winning heals all. We were close like that, we basically did everything together, we hung out all the time, I think that made a difference. Road trips, and over Easter we were still on campus together. It worked for us.
RC: What are some of your most memorable games?
JF: My favorite game was at Xavier junior year, on the road, taking them to overtime in their own building. And Dayton on the road, sophomore year, these were big name, big time teams and we knew we could play with them.
RC: What was the atmosphere like playing at Rose Hill Gym?
JF: I loved playing in front of friends. The best part of going to school at Fordham is that I never roomed with basketball people, it was always just ‘regular’ students. When Rose Hill was rocking it was loud.
RC: How did your life take you to Ireland and what is the basketball world like there?
JF: After Fordham I coached at the Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, for two years, Emeir [Howard] called me and invited me to come out to Dublin, hang out. By the end of the first week I’d met some other Americans, started playing in a basketball tournament at the arena there. Keith Van Horn and Andre Miller were there with Utah, I played well, and decided to stay. Now, 25 years later, I’m still here.