Appalachian State first-year head coach Jim Fox received good news on Tuesday, as the NCAA granted a waiver to forward Tommy Spagnolo, giving him a sixth season of eligibility.
Nathan Ham of the Jefferson Post was the first to report this story.
“It is definitely great news,” Fox told Steve Behr of the Watauga Democrat. “I was no doubt excited for that. I’m thrilled for him because his case has taken so long that it put him in a tough position. It’s spring right now and he’s trying to figure out his future and what to do with the rest of his life. I’m thrilled that he got it and thankful to the NCAA.”
The Mountaineers finished in third from the bottom in Southern Conference with a 9-21 (5-11 SoCon) record. Jason Chapel was fired after the season and Fox, longtime Davidson assistant, was hired to replace him on April 8. Having Spagnolo back in the lineup gives Fox an experienced 6-foot-7 forward on the frontline.
Spagnolo started his collegiate career at Radford, sitting out his first year. He played the 2010-2011 season before transferring to Appalachian State, which forced him to sit out an addition year, due to NCAA transfer rules.
He averaged 8.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, starting in 18 of 30 games, most of which came in SoCon play.
Around midday on Friday, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported Jim Fox, a longtime assistant to Bob McKillop at Davidson who had recently been promoted to associate head coach, was in negotiations to be the next coach at Appalachian State. Nothing is done yet, as evidenced by any iteration of the coaching carousel, but talks must be serious since a leak like Goodman’s occurred.
Fox is an intriguing candidate, partly because he was listed by Pete Thamel (of Sports Illustrated) as a candidate who should land a head coaching job during this offseason. As McKillop’s assistant for years, he understands what it takes to build a program, and ensure lasting success, and that experience could serve him well, provided he lands the job, as the team makes the transition to the Sun Belt Conference.
If Fox is indeed the athletic administration’s choice, the fate of Devonte Graham will likely be one of his first coaching decisions. A quick back-story: Graham committed to Appalachian State under Jason Capel, but after Graham decided maybe the program wasn’t for him, the guard wasn’t granted a release and he enrolled at Brewster Academy for a year. Graham hasn’t been allowed to speak with any other Division I programs — he is essentially on an island at Brewster, a highly coveted recruit who doesn’t want to attend the school he initially committed to — and this scenario needs to be resolved for both parties, ASU and Graham. When Capel’s contract wasn’t renewed, it was unclear what that action meant for Graham, and whomever — Fox or another option — becomes coach will have to either release Graham or somehow sell him on the direction he intends to take the program and convince him to be a Mountaineer.
During the preseason the expectation of many was that the Southern Conference race would provide suspense throughout the season, with at least five teams having realistic hopes of winning the regular season title. Ultimately this would not be the case, with perennial juggernaut Davidson winning the league title by three games. However the Wildcats, who will move to the Atlantic 10 in July, won’t lack for challengers in Asheville. Chattanooga won 12 league games in Will Wade’s first season, and three other teams won at least 10 conference games.
(MORE: Browse through all of our conference tournament previews)
When: March 7-10
Where: U.S. Cellular Center, Asheville, N.C.
Final: Monday, March 10 9:00 p.m. (ESPN2)
Bob McKillop’s Wildcats lost just one conference game: an 87-85 overtime decision to Elon back on January 16. De’Mon Brooks, the coaches’ choice for SoCon POY, and company were dominant in conference play as they led the SoCon in field goal percentage, three-point percentage, field goal percentage defense and both offensive and defensive efficiency (conference games only). And from a rebounding standpoint the Wildcats led the conference in defensive rebounding percentage; very rarely will this group beat itself. The starting five is experienced, and with four players (including Brooks) scoring in double figures Davidson is a difficult team to defend.
And if they lose?: Wofford
After losing three of their first five conference games (two of the losses came against Chattanooga) the Terriers have gone 9-2, and in conference play they’re second in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Guard Karl Cochran (15.2 ppg, 3.1 apg) and forward Lee Skinner (11.1, 8.6 rpg) have led the way offensively for a group that plays slower than any team in the SoCon.
- Chattanooga: Will Wade’s Mocs won their first eight conference games, and in forward Z Mason they’ve got one of the SoCon’s best players.
- Western Carolina: The Catamounts are led by guard Trey Sumler, but they’ll need to defend better than they did in losses to Chattanooga (83 points allowed) and Samford (93) last week.
- Elon: The Phoenix were the preseason pick of some to win the SoCon, and with five seniors they certainly don’t lack for experience.
- DeMon Brooks, Davidson: SoCon POY, Brooks averages 18.4 points and 7.0 rebounds per game on the league’s best team.
- Z Mason, Chattanooga: In addition to averaging 18.2 points and 9.5 rebounds per game Mason also swatted three shots per contest, winning SoCon Defensive Player of the Year.
- Trey Sumler, Western Carolina: Sumler’s averaging 17.9 points and 4.4 assists per game for the Catamounts, leading the conference in the latter statistic.
- Jelani Hewitt, Georgia Southern: Hewitt led the SoCon in scoring with an average of 20.0 points per game, and his first round matchup with Furman’s Stephen Croone (19.3 ppg) won’t lack for entertainment.
CBT Prediction: Davidson beats Wofford in the title game.