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Originally published: 2014-07-05 15:29:03
Last modified: 2014-07-05 15:29:03

Sun Belt opens basketball recruiting opportunities

by Steve Behr Sports Editor

July is a big month for Appalachian State head men's basketball coach Jim Fox.

His coaching staff is complete. His team is officially in the Sun Belt Conference. His returning players are in Boone to attend summer class sessions, and to practice for two hours per week.

Fox has one thing else to worry about: recruiting.

It's a common theme with college coaches of every sport -- the constant recruiting never ends. It's college athletics' version of an arms race that is never taken lightly.

Fox said he has to balance the time spent with his new team with the need to add players for the 2015-16 season.

"This month is a big month for us," Fox said. "Obviously, our players come back. We start summer session. We're allowed to practice for two hours a week, so we'll get them on the court. For us, the July recruiting period, we can get out of here and go recruiting. From Wednesday through Sunday, we're going to be out on the road recruiting, so it should be good."

Fox, who was an assistant at Davidson for 10 years, leads the Mountaineers into their first season in the Sun Belt Conference after App State has been in the Southern Conference since 1971.

Fox sees the move to the Sun Belt as an advantage for himself, especially when it comes to recruiting.

He can point to the fact two seasons ago, the Sun Belt had two teams -- Georgia State and Louisiana-Lafayette -- reached the NCAA tournament last season.

He can also point to the fact that Louisiana-Lafayette's Elfrid Payton was drafted 10th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers. He was traded to the Orlando Magic on draft day.

"The league has great name recognition," Fox said. "People know the Sun Belt. With the kid Payton going 10th in the NBA draft, that helps the whole league as far as recruiting. It shows that you can come here and get drafted. Every kid wants to get drafted, so I think that helps. Having the Sun Belt at our back has helped."

Fox admitted not knowing a lot about the Sun Belt's individual programs as head football coach Scott Satterfield has, but expects that to change as the season approaches.

"That's coachspeak I know. I haven't gotten into it as much as coach Sat has yet," Fox said. "Obviously, Georgia State had a very good team last year. They only lost once in the league. A lot of their guys are coming back. They're going to be really good. The whole league from top to bottom is going to be very good."

Fox also wants to set a tone of what life will be like on the court for the current Mountaineers. The NCAA just passed a rule that allows coaches to spend two hours per week with the players either on the court or in meetings.

Fox wants to spend an hour on Monday and an hour Tuesday coaching the team, and then go recruiting the other five days of the week.

"We're going to try to set the tone in terms of here's how we're going to practice," Fox said. "Here's what we expect when we practice. Here's the pace of practice. We're going to do those kind of things."

Some of the Mountaineers have already received the message.

"He's very big on shooting," rising senior guard Tab Hamilton said. "We have primarily worked on shooting. If you are allowed to shoot the ball well, it's pretty hard for the defense to get themselves set up. We're constantly moving and constantly making it hard for the defense to react. Then we've got guys on the perimeter who can shoot and guys who can come off of picks and come out and shoot."

"There's a lot of running and a lot of movement," rising senior forward Rantavious Gilbert said.