Jeff Griffith (@Jeff_Griffith21)
Consistency was key during Andrew Fox’s college recruitment.
It wasn’t exactly a term that was used frequently during the calendar year of 2020 in general, let alone in sports and college basketball recruiting. Not much of anything was consistent, stable, or orderly.
Andrew Fox (above) will spend his college years at D-III RIT. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Case in point — during Fox’s senior season at Conestoga High School, the Pioneers played just 10 games due to various COVID-related issues.
They won seven of them, which was certainly a positive, but on more than one occasion had to go weeks without playing or practicing as a team, including for a large chunk of the weeks leading up to the season opener. Ultimately, a team that’s grown accustomed to playing its way into the deeper rounds of postseason play fell in the opening round of District 1 6A playoffs.
Consistency was out the window.
“As a senior, it was rough, knowing that we couldn't play a full season, we weren't able to play any out of conference games, nothing like that,” Fox said. “We tried our best to be leaders, and I think we did a pretty good job, but we just fell short.”
For Fox, throughout his senior season, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) was the exception to the ‘no consistency’ rule.
The 6-foot-9 forward and Conestoga product noted a steady stream of communication from the RIT coaching staff — namely, longtime head coach Bob McVean — that made a major difference in his decision-making process. RIT initially reached out to Fox in the summer of 2020, but things ramped up once school was back in session.
Beyond written communications and letters, RIT’s staff set up several conversations with Fox throughout his senior year, starting with a Zoom call with Fox and his parents before the basketball season had even started.
“During the season, he watched our games on this computer, and would talk to me about how I'm doing, all sorts of stuff,” Fox said. “It meant a lot, it was really no different than most of the other scroll schools I talked to… That's one of the reasons why I ended up choosing RIT.”
It helped, too, that when Fox visited RIT, he was able to make personal connections with McVean and several players, and start putting names to faces within the program.
“He showed me around before I went on the tour, and sat me down with some of the players,” Fox said. “I prefer conversation, you know, just about their experiences, so it was really nice. He was really, really awesome.”
Fox’s official commitment came after that visit, at the end of April. Aside from RIT’s continued interest, he mentioned a strong engineering program — a major that’s been of interest to him for a few years now — and the potential to see the floor early and often as other key factors in his choice.
Fox (above, right) chose RIT because of the academic and athletic opportunities it offered. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
“There was a professor that he runs with (in) an engineering building who offered to walk me around,” Fox said of his campus visit. “He showed me all the cool stuff they're doing and we talked to people about projects they’re working on. So, that was really, really awesome.
“It’s very, very good academically,” he added. “And in terms of basketball, I’ll be able to get, from what I understand, some serious playing time as a freshmen — lots of opportunities there.”
The added bonus, for Fox, is that consistency is a trademark of both his high school program and his future college home, especially when it comes to leadership. Conestoga, led for the past 15 years by head coach Mike Troy, has been a perennial since well before Fox’s four years on the team and hasn’t missed the district playoffs since he was in first grade.
“In terms of high school basketball, having one coach for all four years, it’s really nice,” Fox said. “Not everybody gets that luxury to have that stable kind of experience.”
During a taxing final season in the Troy program, Fox — according to the Conestoga head coach — was fittingly one of the most persistent and unwavering pieces of an otherwise haphazard season.
“Andrew is one of the hardest-working kids I’ve ever coached,” Troy said. “All he wanted to do was work, he was the last guy to leave the gym, and if he wanted to work on something, he just spent hours working on it.”
Now, Fox will enter a program that has had even more stability, with McVean entering his 39th year at the helm.
RIT hasn’t been quite as successful in recent seasons as it was at earlier points in McVean’s tenure, but the longstanding head coach still stands as the sixth-winningest among active Division III coaches, with just shy of 600 career victories, the majority of which came during a 19-year streak of winning seasons.
And for someone who’s experienced his fair share of steady success at the high school level, a coaching résumé like that was the cherry on top for Fox.
“I figured, if he's been there for so long, he must be doing something right,” Fox said. “He's been to the NCAA Tournament a bunch of times. He's had multiple All-Americans. That's just something I'm really excited to be a part of.”