CHICAGO, IL – If judging by the size of media scrums, De’Aaron Fox was, without question, the main attraction at the 2017 NBA Draft Combine.
Roughly a half hour before he was scheduled to meet with reporters late Friday afternoon, the table assigned to the Kentucky speedster began to draw a sizable pack, the group more than willing to wait for the arrival of the lanky, long 19-year old.
After Markelle Fultz, Fox – based on multiple mock drafts – was the highest-rated player to make the trek to Chicago for this week’s scouting festivities. Fultz opted not to speak to the press, funneling that much more attention in Fox’s direction.
Relaxed, self-assured, and engaging, the 6-foot-3, 187-pound guard sounded excited and ready to run the gauntlet that the NBA’s pre-draft period presents. At one point during his 15-minute long question-and-answer session, the matter-of-fact Fox stated as humbly as possible that he viewed himself as the best incoming point guard available this year.
As confident as Fox appears to be in respect to his own potential, he also seemed to value the traditions associated with this time of year, even if many of his fellow lottery prospects decided to pass on all or most of the combine.
“I just wanted to be here,” said Fox, a First-Team All-SEC selection who last season accounted for 16.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 1.5 steals in a little less than 30 minutes per game.
Growing up, Fox was a fan of the combine. Although he agreed to go through a series of measurements and tests during his stay in the Windy City, the Houston native sat out the five-on-five scrimmages that were held Thursday and Friday at the Quest MultiSport facility, saying that playing “kind of wouldn’t help me.”
One aspect of the combine, however, that Fox felt he could use to his advantage were the multiple rounds of one-on-one interviews he received. He treated them as opportunities to showcase an engaging personality, and, in doing so, possibly nudge his stock up a little bit more.
“Getting 30 minutes with teams,” Fox said, “I feel could change some minds.”
“I’m always chill, you’re never going to see me nervous. I’m always just like this, having fun. I see this as fun, not just a job interview.”
Fox confirmed Friday that the 76ers were one of the organizations he met with this week. During his back-and-forth with reporters, he said he could see himself fitting a roster featuring other young up-and-comers, such as Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
Like Fox, Simmons, last year’s number one pick, is a product of the SEC. Fox and Simmons first crossed paths while in high school, when they overlapped for two years on the same hoops circuit.
“We’re cool. We see each other, we always talk to each other,” said Fox. “I haven’t really asked him how to approach anything, but we have a pretty solid relationship.”
In his lone campaign in Lexington, Fox served as the lead guard for a stacked Wildcats squad that reached the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament. Not only did he rank first in the SEC in assists, he paced the league in 2-point field goals, too, a statistic associated with Fox’s explosive ability to attack the basket.
When asked Friday to name his most NBA-ready skill, Fox said unsurprisingly that, at this stage of his career, his greatest asset is quickness. Go back and watch one of the Wildcats’ games from last season, or YouTube highlight packages of Fox. The trait is easy to detect.
Funny enough, it wasn’t until Fox got to Kentucky that he fully grasped just how much of an impact his speed could make.
“I didn’t realize I was that fast until Coach Cal kept telling me to run and do this and do that,” said Fox, who’s drawn some comparisons to former Wildcat turned Washington Wizards All-Star John Wall. “In high school, I did the glamor stuff, I was trying to make the wild play. I didn’t really use my speed too much in high school, but college was the first time I actually realized my speed was a difference maker.”
Another weapon in Fox’s arsenal, and not unrelated to his speed and subsequent success in driving the lane, is that he managed to reach the free throw line frequently. His 211 attempts from the stripe ranked fifth in the SEC. He converted nearly 74% of his foul shots, a solid figure, but not quite up to par with another member of his family.
Fox’s mother, Lorraine Harris-Fox, played college basketball herself. According to Fox, she only criticizes him (in basketball) when it comes to free throw shooting.
“She knows what she’s talking about,” said Fox. “She actually had like the record at University of Arkansas – Little Rock. She shot 92% from the line.”
Other than occasional free throw critiques, Fox said his mom allows him to do his own thing, for the most part, and maybe that’s no coincidence. While still raw in certain areas, he’s put together a promising body of work, and has subsequently given NBA executives plenty to ponder as the draft approaches.