There’s an elite club in the NBA, consisting of former college point guards who were coached by John Calipari.
Derrick Rose, John Wall and Brandon Knight are all members. So are Tyreke Evans, Andrew Harrison and–most recently–Tyler Ulis.
Many believe freshman De’Aaron Fox may be next.
Fox, ranked a five-star prospect and the nation’s No. 6 player in the 2016 class in the 247Sports Composite, comes to Lexington with much fanfare. His mixture of size, speed and athleticism has drawn comparisons to Wall — a former Wildcat and No. 1 NBA Draft pick. Many consider him to be the fastest player in his class.
Today’s Fastbreak NBA Draft columnist Ben Stram recently wrote a profile on Fox, highlighting his strengths and weaknesses. Here’s what he had to say about Fox:
Fox is a dynamic point guard with great unselfishness, quickness and speed. He has the end-to-end speed like Wall, the height and defensive upside of Knight and the ability to rise at the rim and finish like Rose. At 6’3.5” with a 6’6.25” wingspan, the Texas native has excellent size and good length for a lead guard at the NBA level. His physical and athletic characteristics are undeniable.
Stram also wrote that Fox has “the potential to be a lockdown defender of opposing point guards with his lateral quickness, speed and intensity.”
As for weaknesses, Stram said that Fox must work on his slight 170-pound frame, as well as developing a more consistent jumper–two things he will be able to work on this season at Kentucky.
The question is whether or not Fox will be able to make enough improvements in those areas to become the one-and-done player many expect him to be.
If the recent trend at Kentucky is any indication, the answer is no.
Kentucky hasn’t had a one-and-done point guard since Marquis Teague in 2012. The team’s last two point guards to be drafted, Harrison and Ulis, each stayed two seasons before declaring for the draft. This season, Isaiah Briscoe opted to return for his sophomore season and work on his jumper in hopes of improving his draft stock.
The recent trend of staying for two seasons started when Harrison returned for his sophomore year. Prior to Harrison staying, Wall, Teague and Knight each stayed one season and then vacated their spot for the next in line. Simply put, there wasn’t much competition at the point guard position.
When Harrison stayed, it created competition the next season with Ulis, which then spilled over into last season when Ulis stayed and went head-to-head with Briscoe. Two point guards have coexisted for the past two seasons, instead of one, clear-cut lead guard. Minutes and ball-handling duties were split, resulting in players opting to return for another season.
This season, it will be more of the same. Fox will have to compete with Briscoe for point guard duties. Briscoe has more experience, but Kentucky hasn’t seen a guard with Fox’s physical abilities since Wall.
Can Fox change the recent trend?
It should be a fierce competition, but don’t be surprised if Briscoe continues to play off the ball as he did last season when he played alongside Ulis. It worked well then, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Calipari continue to utilize Briscoe in that role this season.
If that happens, Fox will have the ball in his hands the majority of the time, which should give the Wildcats their best opportunity to win. It also means Fox will have the best chance to display all of his playmaking abilities.
Fox has his weaknesses, but just like Wall, he has the raw talent and potential to be a star at the next level. He has the physical gifts to impact the game like few others can, and if given the opportunity, can buck the recent trend and become Calipari’s next great point guard product, joining the elite club.