Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Jorge Fontan says his son, Jio Fontan, will leave Fordham University after this semester whether he is granted a release or not.
“If they don’t grant us a release we’re going to leave regardless,” Jorge said Thursday in an exclusive phone interview. “He is going to leave.”
Fontan, a 19-year-old freshman point guard out of St. Anthony in Jersey City, led the Rams in scoring (15.3 points per game), assists (4.7) and steals (33) while adding 2.7 rebounds per game. He was named to the Atlantic-10 All-Rookie team. Fordham finished 3-25, 1-15 in the A-10.
The 6-foot Fontan has tried repeatedly to obtain a release from Fordham, but has been denied on numerous occasions.
In the meantime, Fordham has granted releases to three other players, Mike Moore, Trey Blue and Lamar Thomas.
“As a father, the hardest thing I had to do this year was see my son be so sad and stressed out,” Jorge said.
He added: “Their attitude is it’s our way or the highway. In college people leave all the time. People transfer, coaches leaves all the time, people move on and they’re trying to keep Jio hostage and against his own will.”
Fordham athletic director Frank McLaughlin did not immediately return a message left in his office. A-10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade was not immediately available.
If Fontan is granted a release, he could accept a scholarship from another school but would have to sit out a year. If he is not granted a release, the family would have to pay his way for a year and he would still have to sit out. After one year, he could then go on scholarship at the new school. He would still have to five years to play four.
Jorge would not specify which schools the family is considering but mentioned programs in the Big East, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-10 were all viable possibilities.
Jorge said the family had repeatedly been denied in its attempt to get a release.
“We had numerous meetings,” he said. “One with Coach Whit [Dereck Whittenburg], one with the AD, one with a committee. And Jio probably had two other ones on top of that with Coach Whit again and somebody else in the administration to no avail.”
He added: “They don’t feel it’s the right time. They don’t feel it benefits the school. It doesn’t look good on behalf of certain people.
“Those were basically the same answers. I never heard one time them having any concern about what’s going on with Jio or his future. It”s really an eye opener as far as seeing what their priorities are. They’re not keeping the kid in mind at all.”
Fontan said Fordham officials used the family’s economic status and Jio’s summer schedule as tools to avoid giving a release.
“We’re still seeking a release,” said Jorge, who works in building management in Paterson, N.J. “It’s always better to go that route. That’s one of the main reasons I’m so disappointed and discouraged and why I wouldn’t even consider having Jio go back to school. They used Jio’s situation against us. They tried to use my family’s financial status against us. The timing, knowing that Jio was going to go to Puerto Rico [later this month to play with the U19 team]. It’s pretty sad but we’re not going to let that discourage us from doing the right thing for Jio. We feel it’s 100 percent in Jio’s interests to leave Fordham.”
Jorge said timing was of the essence. Jio will be gone for much of the summer in Puerto Rico, France and New Zealand with the Puerto Rican U19 team, making it difficult to plan for the future.
“That’s why it’s so important to get the release as soon as possible,” Jorge said. “We’re trying to find out exactly how much we’d have to pay and what financial aid is going to cover.”
Several of Fontan’s teammates have joined to support his cause.
“The situation with Jio is just not right,” said Blue, who is transferring to Illinois State. “He doesn’t want to be here. He’’s not going to be here. I think they should just give him his release and let him move on with his life. He’s not going to play anyway, so I think they should let him move on.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.