Road to the State Championship: 2009 was just the beginning for Joshua Fox

Sacred Heart Cathedral senior forward Joshua Fox (center) is the only player from the 2009 state championship team still active for the Irish. (Photo by Eric Luis)

By Jeremy Balan

Joshua Fox didn’t play very much as a junior varsity call-up on the Sacred Heart Cathedral varsity boys basketball team that won the Division III state championship in 2009.

He didn’t have to. It was just a step in “The Plan.”

Before Taylor Johns transferred in from Eastside Prep, Sacred Heart head coach Darrell Barbour tagged four freshman as the future of the program that season and put all of them on the junior varsity team.

It was predicted by many that the 2009 team would win the state title, but Barbour was already grooming Fox, Zach Tapel, Gione Edwards and Jeivon Parker for another championship in 2012.

“The Plan” didn’t work out perfectly for Tapel (who was injured playing football in his senior season), Edwards (who transferred to Mission) or Parker (who eventually stopped playing basketball to focus on football), but Fox’s path was unabated.

Barbour called up Edwards, Fox and Tapel after the junior varsity season was complete to join Josh’s brother Conrad, a junior, on the varsity team for its postseason run.

Joshua Fox's deadly mid-range jumper has been a trademark of the senior this season, but is only a portion of his overall game. (Photo by Doug Ko)

Josh, much shorter and skinnier than he stands now at 6-foot-5, viewed the varsity players as larger than life, specifically monstrous center Kevin Greene and standout forward Jerry Brown. Even now, although he was a member of the team when they took down Ocean View in the state championship game, he refers to the team as “they,” as if he is still an outsider.

“They were just huge,” Josh said. “The speed was different, they were more physical and their talent was just off the chart. I still look up to them. They were my superstars.”

Brown, a 6-foot-7 wing player, is now playing at Fresno State where he averaged 8.8 points per game this season, while Greene is on a football scholarship at USC, where he is listed as a 6-foot-4, 260-pound defensive end.

Greene likely wasn’t as bulky as a senior at Sacred Heart, but Josh quickly got a taste of how powerful he was. In his first practice with the team, Josh was paired with Greene in a drill where he had to take a charge.

“He was so huge and when he ran me over, I just saw stars,” Josh said.

What Josh didn’t know then, and still doesn’t know now (until this article is published), is that Conrad and the other non-freshman teammates orchestrated the lopsided matchup. Josh was around 150 pounds when he faced off against Greene, but did not back down.

“He was a stick back then and when Kevin hit him, he just flew,” Conrad said laughing. “He just stood there and took it.”

Josh, who had played up on Conrad’s teams since second grade because he was just bigger than everyone else at his age level, relished the opportunity to play with his brother again, but knew he would get plenty of abuse. Conrad was proud of his little brother, but did his best not to show it.

Now, he doesn’t shy away from praising his brother and tries to make every one of Josh’s games, just in case he goes off to play college ball out of state.

“Deep down I always want him to do well,” Conrad said. “I was excited for him, but I didn’t want to show him. I used to pick on him in practice. Now, I’m really happy for him. He’s worked really hard for it. I love watching him play and it makes me really proud.”

The brotherly ribbing hasn’t stopped and Conrad still makes sure Josh notices that his name was mistakenly left off the state championship plaque, but now Josh sends back barbs of his own.

Conrad separated his shoulder in the second round of the state tournament against Enterprise, when he went up for a block and got his arm stuck in the rim. Josh likes to joke that deserves the championship ring more than his older brother, because Conrad wasn’t in uniform for the last two legs of the tournament.

As much as they joke, Conrad was more than concerned when Josh went down in the first quarter of the West Catholic Athletic League championship game against Mitty and didn’t return until three games later, in the Central Coast Section title game. The injury appeared to be an ankle sprain, but on-site trainers did not rule out a potential break. Josh still says his ankle isn’t at 100 percent, but in the flow of a game, he doesn’t notice it.

Sacred Heart Cathedral senior forward Joshua Fox has not only been a leader on the court, but is one of the Irish's emotional leaders and a leader in the classroom. (Photo by Eric Luis)

“It scared me, because at first it looked like a sprained ankle, but when he first went back in he couldn’t even walk on it,” Conrad said. “If he could play, he would play. He wouldn’t show that it hurt him on the floor like that. I didn’t want that to happen in his senior year. At least when I got hurt, I was a junior.”

As good as this season’s team is, it cannot match the talent and athleticism of the 2009 squad. Conrad, the sixth man as a junior on the team, played at Sonoma State before transferring to Chabot College and all five starters have played college sports.

“We could go 10-deep with no problem,” Conrad said.

Point guard Daryl Cooper played on the City College basketball team that won a Community College state championship in 2011, shooting guard Karl Reyes is playing basketball at Dominican University and small forward Nate Gartrell played junior college baseball in Arizona before returning to play basketball at Skyline College this season.

“They had more depth and more talent, but this team has chemistry,” Barbour said. “Not that the team before had bad chemistry, they were just so good. With the injuries that we’ve had, the chemistry has allowed for us to be better than our overall talent. That’s the way the game is supposed to be played.”

The chemistry has a lot to do with Josh, who can play nearly every position on the floor, exhibits a deadly mid-range game and has shown a knack for hitting 3s when defenders play off of him.

Early in his career, however, and even last season, Barbour felt he needed to be more selfish.

“Josh was unselfish to a fault,” Barbour said. “I took him out a lot last year to tell him he needed to shoot more and be more aggressive. Sometimes a bad shot for him is better than a good shot for someone else. We’re better when he shoots. Good players need to understand that and he had a hard time adjusting to that.”

The urging from Barbour allowed Josh to develop into the team’s leading scorer, with the confidence to take clutch shots like he did on a buzzer-beating 3 against Mitty to send their final regular-season meeting into overtime.

“Right now, I’m just confident in myself and I think I can make everything,” Josh said.

Barbour also praises his footwork, which the coach says is better than many college players in the area, and Division I recruiters are starting to take notice.

UC Riverside has offered a scholarship to Josh and Johns as a combo and the college’s coaches came to watch the pair practice this week. Louisiana-Monroe is also interested in a package deal, while Columbia and Cornell have inquired about Josh, a 3.7 GPA student.

But it wasn’t always that way. Like Johns, Josh was under-recruited for most of his time in high school, a process Barbour takes issue with as a former college assistant coach and recruiter at Weber State and Eastern Washington.

“These experts in college, what are they watching?” Barbour said. “They’ll look around and may be interested, but not to the point where they offer [a scholarship]. Then as soon as they get offered by someone else — and don’t let it be in their conference — then they really go crazy. It’s not rocket science. These guys make it harder than it really is.”

One college program will get a very good basketball player (or two) next season, but like so many athletes before him and like so many will do after, the doubters continue to drive Josh.

“People said I couldn’t shoot, so this summer I stayed in the gym and kept shooting,” Josh said. “Supposedly, we’re not supposed to win [against Alemany], but we weren’t supposed to win the Bishop O’Dowd game either. I use it all as motivation.”

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  1. Basketball Fan says:

    Thank you for sharing this story that not only stresses the team spirit and drive of the 2012 team, but the close and supportive relationship between Conrad and Josh. I have known both of the Fox brothers for years and their dedication to family and school has also been present for all to see.
    Coach Barbour states that they, (2009 ),team “had more depth and more talent, but this team has chemistry,” SO true . . . I remember watching them and seeing the strength of that team but not witnessing the team focus, chemistry and I will say “brotherhood” that this team exhibits.
    Thank you for sharing all of the personal stories this week. It has been great and inspiring reading.
    GO IRISH!!!

  2. SF_Mikey says:

    Great series of articles this week Jeremy. I am making the trip up to Sac tomorrow to watch SHC take state!

    Go Irish!

  3. nate says:

    JB, you’re articles all week has been spot on!! Josh (F town) is what I call him was a pleasure for me to coach the past 3 seasons. A person who will sacrifice his game to make others shine!! Josh worked hard over the summer to develop his jump shot and he can also jump out the gym. Great support from his family has most definately kept this kid even keeled!! We were in Florida for 15 days last summer and Josh Mom and sister made sure that we had a homecooked dinner for 3 of those days. That’s a testiment to the family and their willingness to look out for EVERYONE!! Just like Josh does!! This kid will be a “steal” for a college!! My phone and email are now blowing off the hook now for him. But hey,its better late than never!! Good luck F Town and thanks for letting me be a part of your growth!!

  4. vince lockwood says:

    great story

  5. Labirdsfan says:

    Best of luck to the Irish tomorrow……from one Southern California resident who will be rooting for them. Great series of profiles this week.

  6. Coach B says:

    This is SHC team is a true testament to what it takes win the State Championship. The selflessness of Fox and Johns, instilled by coach Barbour, creates the chemistry that undeniable paves the way to their success.
    After watching them play five teams this year, they have never lost their composure, ie; negative body language, arguing between the players’, loosing their cool, No matter what the score!
    Bring back the Championship!
    Great articles all season, JB

  7. WCal Fan says:

    Nice story on Josh. He is a good kid. Have been watching him since he played at St. Thomas More.

  8. Irishheart says:

    Geat story! Josh is an amazing player! Been watching him play for years! He has a very strong support system in his family. I also believe that many of the attributes that he displays on the court & in his everyday life were deeply instilled In him when joined St Mary’s SF basketball program when he as in 5th or 6th grade! That program really laid the foundation that has turned him into the beast he is today on the court. That program not only taught the fundamentals of basketball, but laid the foundation for the boys in that program to become proud, respectful, disciplined men. It taught them loyaltiy & gave them another “family”
    It has been a blessing to not only see Josh, but Tyler Petroni, Ricky Alberto, Eric Trajano, DK Villanova, Michael

  9. IrishheartCherease says:

    (from previous message)
    & all the other seniors who will be graduating this year that have stepped on the court for St Mary’s SF grow into the wonderful young people that they are!!
    Let’s bring that championship back home!!’
    Goooo IRISH!!!

  10. Ruckjames says:

    All championship games televised in high def on CSN bay area ! Check it out!

  11. Chris says:

    Excellent stories JB on the IRISH basketball team, Keep them coming.

  12. JJ says:

    Columbia would be an intriguing college if he decides to go there. It would create a San Francisco connection with last year’s BCL West player of the Year — Noah Springwater. Louisiana-Monroe would also be an interesting choice because I think LA-Monroe had something like a 3-26 record which would probably mean that they could get significant playing time right away, if both Fox and Johns went there. Good luck to whatever college choice Fox & Johns make.

  13. Ari Gold says:

    Love watching Josh Fox play basketball. He has a high basketball IQ, takes efficient shots from all over the court, has inside/outside game, brings the ball up, passes out of the double team, has timely putback dunks, and whatever rebound Taylor cant get, he gets it. There arent alot of players that have ALL the tools, but Josh has them all. If anyone can point out a weakness besides not being as fast as Trevor Dunbar, please let me know.

    What a relief that he can still play after the Mitty game injury. I was there when Conrad separated his shoulder vs Enterprise. That was a total freak play and the thump sound of his arm/shoulder hitting the rim/backboard still plays in my head when I saw him at SH home games this year supporting SH and his younger brother.

    This is a team of destiny and though not as talented as the 2009 team, I still feel they will come out victorious on Saturday. Cant wait to see the Irish lift up another State plaque. Hey SI, how many basketball state titles are in your trophy case? (dont make me laugh with your peach basket title in the 1910s!!)

  14. Congrats to the fighting Irish. Josh Fox, Tyler Petroni and Ricky Alberto came from two programs that preached teamwork, fanatical conditioning routines and an unselfish style of play. Those programs were St. Mary’s rec and it’s CYO affiliation with St Thomas More. Unlike other AAU programs that will try and pat themselves on the back, we preached student excellence first and foremost. No grades no play. Thus the young men have excelled off the court and don’t need basketball to move on in college. Your success is well deserved. The last year these young men played with the SF rebels who recognized quality players and took them across the country to be seen. Thanks for that. A huge thanks to St Mary’s parents and Marty Arenas for keeping them on the right path

  15. Keep it real says:

    I love Fox game and this is right on
    Point Jb!!!And I new he was a D-1 player!!! Also glad that he likes to be the underdog!!! those are the kind of ppl that always Do good in Life!!! Good luck to him and the team!!! Can’t wait to see the Ball go in the Air!!!!

  16. Ari Gold says:

    I know =) Sorry JB, its just habitual. I’ll refrain unless provoked.

  17. TM76 says:

    Great article! Agreed with other post that have said what a well written week of articles. I glad to see all the young men finish up their career at SH with a chance to win state!

    I had the pleasure of seeing Josh, Tyler, Zach, Eric, Ricky, DK and Michael play at St. Mary’s along with Tati, Tua (they played the bulk of the time with the boys) and Allie, Mariah, Kassandra, And Terilyn play there also. A big prop should go to Coach Marty for guiding them and instilling the fundamentals of the game at an early age in these players. He never had them play against competition their own age always two years old or even sometimes three. I feel that a part of the success that they are having now is from that early training at St. Mary’s. Whether you agreed with his coaching style or not, Marty got the best out of them

  18. nate says:

    I won’t get into the bashing of programs. Marty and I been friends for years. I think Marty did a hell of a job with the boys and the St. Marys program. He is to be commended for molding young boys to become respectful young men on and off the court. The Rebels was a very small part in Josh’s development. Its not about who gets credit for what. I am just proud that the boys gets a chance to further their education and get to do it for FREE!! So whoever is trying to start some kind of rivalry or friction. Please stop!! Marty would’nt want to see that!! This will be my last post ever on this board as it becomes sometimes a bashing board and I’m sure this is not something that JB set this board up for. This gets a little old and actually a bit childish. Thanks SF Preps for the wonderful job that you have done to bring some of the luster back to SF Preps!! Good Luck to SH this weekend. smh!!!

  19. Basketball Fan says:

    I agree nate. When it becomes a bashing board, either by posting outright slights against players, coaches and/or team or insinuating negative and mean comments, it gets old and childish. I started to read the boards for the stories and to hear what others might think about the development of our programs and teams. This SHCP vs SI vs Riordan vs anyone else gets old. What also gets old is the constant “remember whens” of people posting stuff from the “glory days” . . . ok . . . we are in the now and can discuss the future in relationship to it, so live the glory days to the conversations with your old buddies.
    JB, please look closer at the comments and evaluate if they are really productive or are ways for people to dig at each other and other innocent members. I want to continue reading, posting and discussing but this bashing stuff is unnecessary and does not help the discussion.
    GO IRISH!!!

    • John Tuvo says:

      In direct response to B- ball fan, if it were not for the rivalries, and the discourse between the likes of SI, SH and Riordan, interest would not be as high. We look to the past to figure out the future.
      Enjoyed reading the commentaries, and keep the discusssion open. This is still a free country.

      Go Irish!! Great season. Special thanks to Mr. Gold, IC Stars and even Josh Weinstein, and JJ Balan.

  20. Leadrrship101 says:

    Well said Tuvo. First of all Nate bashing? This was never about denigrating one program. It was about things more important than the game itself. It was about looking back and saying thank you to a program that raised money and literally changed these kids learning opportunities. They wound up in great private schools when families couldn’t afford it. Fed certain families and helped out when it was needed. It was an acknowledgement to. The Petroni family and others who supported Marty’s efforts of being a mentor as well as coach. You noticed I thanked your program because you widened the players opportunities to travel, be seen and get looked at. All players move on in search of different skill development it’s part of the road to greatness. Just be humble enough to say thank you to those who put you in a position to succeed in life.

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