Fox impresses for UK, breaks record in debut


Freeman guard De’Aaron Fox splits two defenders during the game against Stephen F. Austin on Friday, November 11, 2016 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Carter Gossett | Staff

Anthony Crawford

Even as UK cruised to a 87-64 victory over Stephen F. Austin it was apparent that a few members of John Calipari latest recruiting class were struggling, but freshman point guard De’Aaron Fox wasn’t one of them as he instead broke records in his collegiate debut.

The lengthy, lightning quick guard shined in the season opener posting a double-double of 12 points and 12 assists, a UK record for a player in their debut (previously held by Kyle Macy) and in a team’s season opener.

The game started out as a foul-prone event in the first half as a total of 27 were committed, but once things eventually settled down, the Cats got out and ran like they did in their exhibitions and that’s where Fox shined.

UK made a conscious effort to outlet the ball to whoever was leading the break and most of the time that was Fox, and when he got it good things happened. Most of those assists were two either cutters or spot up shooters in the opposite corner, that were able to get open as Fox collapsed the defense with his speed and found the open man.

“I didn’t even realize I was doing it,” Fox said afterwards of his passing. “I knew I wasn’t shooting the ball well. My teammates were cutting and finishing when I was passing it to them, so all the credit is to them.”

What was even more impressive was Fox’s lack of turnovers, as he played much of the game only committing one before finishing the game with three after a few erred passes on showtime opportunities.

What also stood out with the freshman was how he used his long arms. His three steals on the night were impressive, but he also used his long arms to slice through the defense. Sophomore Isaiah Briscoe earned a well-deserved reputation for being one of UK’s hardest players to stay in front of last year, but Fox might give him a run for his money this year.

“He was really good today. He’s just so good with the ball, he’s long, he can finish around the goal, he’s a terrific passer,” Calipari said about Fox. “He’s special.”

Other Notes:
Derek Willis providing a senior spark

Fox got the offense humming eventually, but to start the game turnovers and freshmen mistakes hampered the Cats. That was until senior Derek Willis started to assert himself scoring 10 of UK’s first 14 points and eventually finishing with 15 points in the game overall.

“Derek (Willis) just came out and showed what a senior is supposed to do,” Fox said. “He put up points, points in bunches really quick. He got comfortable so that allowed us to get comfortable.”

Willis looked confident and decisive, attacking early upon receiving the ball and not hesitating from firing once he got to his spots, even nailing a nice fall-away jumper after driving baseline in his initial scoring spurt. The forward finished the game going 5-7 from the field and 1-for-3 from downtown, while also having an impact on the other side of the court rejecting three shots and pulling down five rebounds.

Freshman learning curve hits Adebayo, Monk early

One of the reasons Fox shined so bright and Willis was called on so early to score was because of how much freshmen Bam Adebayo and Malik Monk struggled early.

Bam especially struggled just to stay on the court. He picked up two quick fouls within the first minute of the game, including one that was a double-foul between him a SFA player, which led to him only seeing 15 minutes of action in the game. The lack of time on the court showed in how he really never got in a groove and struggled to display his all-out effort style grabbing only one rebound with five minutes left in the game. He also struggled at the line going 3-for-7, and ended up with only five points. 

Monk on the other hand, struggled offensively going 4-for-14 from the field. But even that didn’t stop him from getting to double-digit scoring, finishing with 10 points after a second half surge. Things will surely come around for Monk once he gets used to playing against Division I athletes, but tonight he seemed to be more responsible for his struggles as he seemed to force shots at times, especially in the first half where he ended going scoreless.