“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.
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.
Appalachian State is one of the teams expected to contend in a wide-open Southern Conference this season, and junior forward Jay Canty is one of the reasons why. Canty, a 6-foot-6 forward, is one of the SoCon’s best returnees after he posted averages of 14.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game in 2012-13.
Unfortunately for Canty and the Mountaineers he won’t be available for the team’s first nine games, as he’s academically ineligible. On Wednesday head coach Jason Capel announced the status of both Canty and freshman guard Aaron Scott, who’s been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules.
“But I am proud that Jay is stepping up to his responsibilities, is doing the things he needs to do and growing from this,” Capel said according to Tommy Bowman of the Winston-Salem Journal. “The team has rallied around him and he’s still very much a part of the big picture of who we are going to be even though we’ll obviously miss him early in the season.
“He will be back. He’s doing a good job of taking care of what he needs to take care of.”
With Canty missing the first nine games of the season Appalachian State won’t have him for games against N.C. State (Friday), Cincinnati (November 16), Georgia (November 29) and Charlotte (December 8). He’s expected to be eligible to return on December 18 against Presbyterian, the first game after the end of the fall semester.
With Canty out of the lineup Appalachian State’s most productive returnees are senior forward Tevin Baskin (9.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg) and junior guard Tab Hamilton (9.2, 2.1), with sophomore forward Michael Obacha (5.3, 4.6) being the team’s leading returning rebounder.
All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.
To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To see the rest of the Conference Previews we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.
When the realignment dominoes began tumbling the general consensus was that it would take a lot to impact the leagues that don’t sponsor FBS football. That assumption ended up being misguided, and the Southern Conference is an example of this. The College of Charleston is now in the CAA and four more schools, including Davidson, will leave at the end of the 2013-14 academic year.
But that won’t have an impact on the conference race this season, one that should be hotly contested. When discussing the SoCon, Bob McKillop’s Davidson squad has to be mentioned, but the Wildcats do have some key personnel losses to address. De’Mon Brooks, the team’s lone returning double-digit scorer, will be asked to lead the way and Miami-Ohio transfer Brian Sullivan should also have an impact after sitting out last season.
Even with the standard of excellence established by Davidson, the Wildcats aren’t seen as the favorites in the SoCon this season. Why? Because an Elon squad that won 21 games last season returns all five starters, including senior guard Jack Isenbarger. Add in forwards Ryley Beaumont (11.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and Lucas Troutman (15.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and head coach Matt Matheny has a team more than ready to grab the league’s top spot.
Another program with the pieces needed to challenge for SoCon supremacy is Western Carolina, which returns its top five scorers from a season ago including the prolific Trey Sumler. But whether or not the Catamounts make a run at the title will depend upon their front court, with WCU finishing last season 11th in the SoCon in defensive rebounding percentage. Other teams with the potential to factor into the equation are Appalachian State, Samford and Wofford, with all three returning at least four starters from last season.
In: None Out: College of Charleston (CAA)
PRESEASON SOUTHERN CONFERENCE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: G Trey Sumler (Western Carolina)
Sumler averaged 18.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game as a redshirt junior, posting a solid offensive rating of 111.0. Sumler failed to reach double figures in points just three times last season, scoring a season-high 32 in a loss at Elon in late-January. Given his ability to put points on the board, look for the fifth-year season to take home SoCon Player of the Year honors.
FOUR MORE NAMES TO KNOW:
F De’Mon Brooks (Davidson): With Jake Cohen gone the Wildcats will need even more from Brooks (13.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg).
G Jack Isenbarger (Elon): The versatile Isenbarger (13.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.6 apg) leads the way for the preseason favorites.
F Kyle Cain (UNC Greensboro): The Arizona State transfer possesses the tools needed to have an immediate impact after sitting out last season.
G Raijon Kelly (Samford): Kelly (14.1 ppg, 4.7 apg) is one reason why the Bulldogs should be much-improved in 2013-14.
3. Western Carolina
4. Appalachian State
8. UNC Greensboro
10. Georgia Southern
11. The Citadel
By now, you should all know that the National Letter of Intent system is incredibly unfair for the athletes that are forced to sign it.
Devonte’ Graham is the latest example.
Graham is a point guard from Raliegh that played for the Garner Road AAU program and, last September, committed to go to Appalachian State. He signed a letter of intent during the early signing period, but after a successful high school season, a couple of bigger schools began poking around. So Graham asked out of his NLI, but Appalachian State head coach Jason Capel refused to give him a release, according to a report from Adam Zagoria.
Graham opted to go to prep school at Brewster Academy instead of enrolling at Appalachian State, and since he’s been there, he’s garnered interest from UConn, Pittsburgh, Creighton, Providence and Rhode Island. But he can’t get a release, so unless he wants to risk sitting out a season and losing a year of eligibility, Graham is in a bind.
If Capel, his head coach, had gotten some interest from a bigger program, he could have up and left without a moment’s notice, which is part of the reason that signing an NLI is so one-sided. It’s a legally binding document that is punitive only if the player decides to leave. Ask Richard Amardi. He signed an NLI with Iowa State, but when they ran out of scholarships, he was kicked to the curb.
The irony here?
If Capel had actually gotten a better job, Graham probably would have been granted a release by now.
Here’s what I don’t understand: why is Capel putting up this much of a fight? Why isn’t he letting Graham go off on his own way? He already forced the kid to delay his enrollment in college for a year by refusing to release him, now he’s going to try to cost the kid a year of eligibility and a redshirt season?
What’s he trying to accomplish? Does he want to burn bridges with Garner Road, one of the stronger AAU programs in the Mid-Atlantic? Is he really that ticked off that a player wants a chance to play in a bigger conference? Is it really worth the negative publicity? And if he eventually gets Graham to come to Appalachian State because he doesn’t want to lose that year, does he really think he’s going to be able to repair that relationship?
I get it, Jason.
I’d be mad, too.
But it’s time to let it go.
Don’t try and hurt the kid’s career anymore because you feel like you got played. The ‘Vengeful Adult’ is not a role any coach should play.