Steve Fisher revived his career, SDSU

Season tickets have been sold out for the last two seasons (Viejas has a capacity of 12,414). Want a spot in the first three rows? Those season tickets will cost you $50,000 minimum -- but that small sum includes free food and drinks. Philip Rivers, Marshall Faulk, Stephon Marbury and Stephen Strasburg have all visited Viejas Arena to see the best college basketball team in California.

The players are different, too. In Fisher's first year on the job, he received a call from a man who talked about a kid who couldn't play for Rick Majerus at Utah but would be a star for his program.

"I said to him, 'The last time I looked, I'm in the league with Rick Majerus and I have to have people that cannot only play with me but can beat Rick Majerus,'" Fisher says. "People thought anybody can play at San Diego State."

The Aztecs can play with anyone now. Thames is an All-America candidate. Dwayne Polee II, Winston Shepard and JJ O'Brien provide talent and experience.

Fisher said Tulane transfer Josh Davis, who is averaging 9.0 PPG and 11.0 RPG, is the best rebounder he's ever had. Yes, better than former San Diego State star and current San Antonio Spurs standout Kawhi Leonard.

Davis said the weather didn't woo him as much as the coaching staff's familial approach. Before Fisher and his staff reached out to Davis, they visited his mother in North Carolina.

"That meant a lot to me [for them] to be concerned about my mom rather than just come through me," he says.

Even though he's surrounded by young men 50 years his junior, Fisher is still old school. His players can't wear earrings on the road. He says he refuses to "hip-hop with them."

That's not completely true.

"He actually knows Tupac, Biggie, all the old-school rappers," Thames says. "He was around [Jalen Rose] and those guys with the Fab Five. I'm sure he knows a little bit, but every time we play music in the locker room, [it's] 'What is this crap?'"

He's a coach, not a friend. But the veteran finds ways to connect with his players.

"I find out what makes you tick and I play off that," he says. "I think we've got good people skills as a staff."

Fisher initially assumed he could rely on his Midwestern roots to lure breadbasket kids to the beach. But it's hard to recruit players across the country on a budget and even tougher to cure their homesickness once they land. So Fisher and his staff quickly changed their recruiting philosophy by recognizing that they had to focus on the West Coast.

They went to nearby AAU tournaments. They talked to every high school coach in the San Diego area. They built relationships.

The effectiveness of that approach is evident within his latest crop of incoming players.

San Diego State has been enhanced by solid transfers and junior college players under Fisher. But the 2014 recruiting class features four high school players, three of whom are top-100 prospects per RecruitingNation (Malik Pope, Trey Kell, Zylan Cheatham). Angelo Chol, who's sitting out this season after transferring from Arizona, will be eligible next year, too. They're all from the region. Kevin Zabo, a Canadian guard, will join them.

"We set out to build relationships, to invest our time in other people, to prove that we were who we said we were, and we would call people sometimes when we knew they had no players," Fisher says. "Everybody calls you when you have a player."

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