Arguably the best point guard in a recruiting class loaded with really good point guards announced his college decision on an ESPNU special on Thursday, one day after the start of the early signing period for college basketball. De’Aaron Fox is headed to Kentucky. He chose the Wildcats over Kansas, Louisville and LSU.
Fox emerged as an elite talent early in his career at Cypress Lakes (Texas) High. His profile rose this summer while playing with his grassroots team, the Houston Hoops, on the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League Circuit. Over 21 games this year, Fox averaged 16.8 points and led the EYBL with 5.4 assists per game and 91 steals.
In August, Fox released a list of his top seven schools: Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, LSU, North Carolina and North Carolina State. He then took official visits to LSU, Louisville, Kansas for the program’s Late Night in the Phog event and Kentucky for its Big Blue Madness event and also canceled a previously planned trip to Arizona.
At 6'3", 170 pounds, Fox is renowned for his defense, quick first step and playmaking. “A capable scorer with tremendous size, length and feel for the point guard position, he is just as dangerous on the offensive side of the ball as he is the defensive side where he’s arguably the best on-the-ball defender in the class,” Eric Bossi, a national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, wrote of Fox in August.
Fox, who has drawn comparisons to Washington Wizards star John Wall, checks in at No. 5 in the Recruiting Services Consensus Index, a composite ranking that incorporates data from several sources.
With Fox off the board, five of the top six players listed as point guards by Rivals.com in the class of 2016 have issued verbal commitments: Dennis Smith to NC State, Lonzo Ball to UCLA, Frank Jackson to Duke and Cassius Winston to Michigan State. In addition, combo guard Markelle Fultz committed to Washington, and combo guard Malik Monk and point guard Kobi Simmons remain uncommitted.
Fox is the latest in a line of elite PG recruits to choose to play for John Calipari, dating to his tenure at Memphis. Derrick Rose (2007), Tyreke Evans (2008), Wall (2009), Brandon Knight (2010), Marquis Teague (2011) and Andrew Harrison (2013) all ranked in the top 10 of the RSCI. It’s worth keeping in mind that Fox has distinguished himself in a year with multiple other top-flight talents at his position.
Projecting what Kentucky’s backcourt will look like when Fox arrives on campus next year is not easy. Sophomore Tyler Ulis and freshmen Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe are expected to consume the majority of minutes at both guard spots this season. How much playing time Fox gets in 2016 will depend in part on which (if any) of those players elect to leave for the NBA.
DraftExpress pegs Murray (No. 6 pick) and Briscoe (No. 18) as first-round selections in the 2016 draft, while Ulis is not listed on the scouting website’s latest mock. Whoever decides to return for next season, Calipari shouldn’t have any issues sorting out the rotation. After all, he’s going to need to figure out how to play Murray, Briscoe and Ulis together this season.
Perhaps a more important question is how those players’ NBA decisions affect Monk, one of Kentucky’s top remaining recruiting targets in the class of 2016. Though listed as a shooting guard by three of the four major recruiting services, he can play on or off the ball. Fox has said that he and Monk have discussed the possibility of suiting up together in college.
Kentucky could do much worse than trotting out those two in the same backcourt, but the guard rotation may be crowded even if Monk doesn’t choose the Wildcats. The Arkansas native is not expected to announce his decision this week, but that won’t stop Kentucky fans from dreaming about the possibility of Fox and Monk wreaking havoc on the SEC.
For now, they can rejoice in the Wildcats’ addition of another floor general with lottery-pick potential to a recruiting class that already includes two five-star power forwards, Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones. Kentucky could also look to add another big man to the group—possibly one of two Texas natives, Marques Bolden or Jarrett Allen, or High Point (N.C.) Christian’s Edrice “Bam” Adebayo.