Senior Spotlight: Fox's career up and down

Arizona says goodbye to three seniors this weekend. All three had very different Wildcat careers. The player who may have had the roughest season was Isaiah Fox. Now in his fifth season, his career did not go as quite as planned.

Isaiah Fox almost didn't become a Wildcat.

At one point his scholarship offer had been pulled. It wasn't anything he did, the Wildcats had commitments from three big men. Channing Frye, Dennis Latimore and Rick Rickert were all committed and the Cats said thanks but no thanks to the player who was born in Tucson.

Of course Rickert decommitted and wound up at Minnesota and that left the Wildcat coaches scrambling to get back in on Fox. Luckily, they had an in. Fox's dad was a former Wildcat football player.

Fox did not make it easy on the Cats. He was seriously considering Cal, even when the Cats offered the scholarship. The way the story goes the Cats offered one of their famous ultimatums, ‘choose us or we move on'. One story has Fox actually saying that he spurned the ultimatum, only to call the next day and pledge to the Cats.

The rest of his Wildcat career would be just as up and down.

Fox came to Arizona at a time when six of the Cats' top eight players were gone. Loren Woods, Gene Edgerson and Justin Wessel graduated, while Gilbert Arenas, Michael Wright and Richard Jefferson bolted early for the pro dollars. Fox knew when he committed that he'd have a chance to play early, he had no idea that he'd enter a program with just one veteran big man, and that he was a converted wing who had taken a year off.

Fox's career started off in fine fashion. He made his Wildcat debut at Madison Square Garden against Florida and eventual national champion Maryland. He matched up well with future NBAers Lonnie Baxter and Udonis Haslem. Fox started six of the Cats' first seven games where he averaged almost seven points a game.

Although Channing Frye came on strong and eventually wrestled the starting center spot, Fox was a key contributor the entire season.

His sophomore season was not quite as good. He began the season by battling Frye for minutes, but eventually his minutes fell off. Once Frye gained control of the center spot, it was actually Luke Walton who was the first post reserve. Instead of bringing Fox off the bench, Olson went with freshmen wings Andre Iguodala and Hassan Adams as the first reserves. The two newcomers would come in and Walton would slide to the four or five.

By season's end he was a little used back-up playing just six minutes in the Wildcats' last two tournament games.

There were several factors hampering Fox. First and foremost was the emergence of Frye. Frye, who would go on to become a Lottery pick, had become a solid starter and Fox couldn't push him out of the spot.

More importantly, Fox constantly battled his weight. He came to Arizona heavy and the weight constantly ebbed and flowed. He'd get in shape and then regress. Interestingly enough, his weight loss did not always coincide with his playing well. Obviously, when he was at the far extreme of weight gain he played poorly, but losing weight and getting in shape did not guarantee results.

He was poised to see a lot of time his junior year. Anderson and Walton graduated, Latimore transferred, Chris Dunn was academically ineligible and incoming freshman Ndudi Ebi went pro. All signs pointed to Fox and Frye as Arizona's starting frontcourt, eating up a ton of minutes.

It never happened.

That off-season Fox had his infamous run-in with the law. Maybe ‘infamous' is the wrong word, but "Bagel Gate" is now part of Arizona basketball lexicon. Basically, Fox was cited for stealing a bagel and cream cheese from a store at the student union.

In the scheme of things the incident was minor, but it was the start of a bad year for Fox.

Things actually started off very well. Fox was dominant in the Red/Blue game and then he had his first double-double in the season opener against NAU. He scored two points and grabbed two rebounds in the opening minutes against Florida, but left the game after hurting his knee. We did not know how bad it was then, but it turned out to be a major knee injury.

Fox would not see the floor again that season, taking a medical redshirt.

He seemed poised to make an impact in 2004 but began the season in the dog house. He was suspended for the first few games of the season for another off the floor transgression. Although he was lighter, he did not seem to be in great shape.

Fox's first three games saw him play less than 10 minutes, making almost no impact. He played 20 against Wyoming and then was pivotal in the Cats limiting Mississippi State and All-American forward Lawrence Roberts. Fox had 10 points and four rebounds in the game, Roberts had just seven points and seven boards in the contest.

Fox started the next five games and the Cats won all five, but Fox eclipsed the 10-point mark just once, netting 11 against Manhattan.

By season's end Fox was a little used reserve, getting the bulk of his minutes in garbage time. He played just three minutes in the NCAA Tournament, all of them coming against UAB.

Things got so bad that Lute Olson had to pull Kirk Walters out of his redshirt in the middle of the season because they were not getting enough play out of the post.

Mentally and physically he looked off. He seemed a step slow, from a physical aspect and a decision making one. He never had a lot of spring, but he had less quickness and explosiveness. He also looked like he just did not know what to do in certain situations. He seemed indecisive.

No one knew what to expect from Fox entering his senior season. He was challenged by the Arizona coaches to report in shape or to not report at all. There was talk that Fox had resigned himself to being a role player. Rumor had it that he was more interested in the perks associated with being an Arizona basketball player more than he was interested in being a basketball player.

Fox proved those rumors to be wrong, at least partially so. He came into the season in the best shape of his career.

For the most part Fox has been nothing more than a role player. He made one start and has only played in 19 games. He's averaging 1.4 points and 1.5 rebounds a game. He has had some great moments, but mostly been a mop-up guy.

Fox's career will mostly be seen as one of disappointment. Fans remember all the promise he showed those first few games at Madison square Garden, but he'll also be remembered as the kid who swiped a bagel.


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