Early on last season both players started at the center spot. Isaiah Fox initially won the job and soon Channing Frye was pushing him in practice. At the same time Fox began battling his weight, Frye went off, exploding onto the scene at the beginning of conference play.
Frye went on to have a phenomenal freshman season, while Fox provided a key big man coming off the bench.
This year both players are neck and neck. Though Frye has gotten the lion's share of the press, Fox has pushed him everyday in practice. Their rivalry began during pick-up games where neither player liked to be outdone by the other. If Fox got a dunk, Frye would answer with a jumper. If Frye blocked a shot, Fox got a rebound. Neither player was complacent enough to let the other shine for very long.
"We both go at each other all the time," said Frye.
Though they are both fighting for the same minutes, and battle hard, the rivalry is a friendly one. Both players want to do well, but each want to win as well.
"When it comes to the games it's not me versus Isaiah, it's me and Isaiah on the same team," Frye said. Playing with Isaiah is so much fun."
"Our games are so different, but I feel like we feed off of each other," Frye said. "Some days he's going to have me and some days I'm going to have him. Everyday we get better."
"He's more of a runner and I'm a bit bigger," Fox added. "We really help each other out because our games contrast each other. It's a big help to play against him because he's so talented. It's also good to play against Dennis (Latimore) and Ricky (Anderson). Ricky is so smart and Dennis is so athletic and strong. When we all play against each other it really helps because we get to play against the types if games they have that we might not have."
The contrast in styles has really helped each player. Frye has forced Fox to run, while Fox has gotten Frye to bang a little more. Even when the thinner Frye is not prepared to bang with his thicker opponent, he is learning to avoid his more physical counterpart.
"Isaiah has a really good post game," said Frye. "Isaiah has a lot of game. His footwork is difficult to match-up with as a big man. You are constantly having to move to try to keep his body away from you. He's very smart about the game and he knows where to put his weight."
Frye has bulked up in the offseason. He weighed as much as 245 pounds over the summer and although he's down to 232, he still feels stronger and more confident. You can tell just by looking that he has gained weight. Time in the weight room have broadened his shoulders and made his once scrawny arms worthy of a tank top.
Fox in turn has shed some weight. At one time over the summer he was pushing 300-pounds, now he is down to about 265.
"Coach didn't like that too much," Fox said of his recently shedded weight.
Even though he lost over 30 pounds, Fox feels like he'd benefit from knocking 5-10 more from the scale. Fox looks like a different player, and is playing like it. Coaches boast that he's running like a forward and much of that is due to keeping up with Frye.
"He has to learn how to run up and down the court and how to counter some of the moves that I have," Frye commented.
Though the two have battled, they remain friends off the court. The two have much respect and kid each other like brothers. While discussing the season opener against Western Kentucky, the topic of Hill Topper center Chris Marcus came up. When Frye informed Fox of Marcus' size, Fox was quick with a barb for his thinner teammate.
"He's 300 pounds? Chris Marcus? Then you are not going to guard him," Fox kidded.