LEXINGTON, Ky. – After leading Kentucky to the Southeastern Conference regular-season and tournament titles as well as an appearance in the Elite Eight, freshman point guard De’Aaron Fox (pictured) has decided he will put his name in the 2017 NBA Draft. He plans to sign with an agent, which would effectively end his career at UK.
The NBA Draft is June 22.
“First of all, I’m grateful for the unbelievable season we had,” Fox said. “Although the ending didn’t turn out how we wanted it to, this team came together as a family and we achieved things that a lot of people didn’t think we could because we were so young. I want to thank my teammates for being on this ride with me as well as the seniors and specifically Zay (Isaiah Briscoe) for guiding me this season. It wouldn’t have been such a smooth transition from high school to college without their leadership.
“I want to thank God for blessing me with this talent to play at this level. I also want to thank my parents and my brother for always being there for me. I want to thank Cal, KP (Kenny Payne) and the entire coaching staff for recruiting me and for having the confidence in me to lead this team. Throughout the season they helped me grow as a player and as a person.
“With that being said, I’ve decided to enter the 2017 NBA Draft and I will be signing with an agent. I think I’ve had a pretty good freshman season through the guidance of our coaching staff and I think it’s time for me to live out my dream.
“Last but not least, I want to thank the Big Blue Nation. There is no other fan base like you in the country. I’ll miss playing in front of you, but I know you’ll continue to support me at the next level.”
Fox, the latest in a long list of John Calipari-coached point guards who have gone on to the NBA, is the first underclassman from the 2016-17 Wildcats to declare for the 2017 NBA Draft. Players have until 11:59 p.m. ET on April 23 to submit their names for the 2017 NBA Draft.
“De’Aaron’s speed, length and ability to pick up defensively from 94 feet set him apart from his peers,” Calipari said. “De’Aaron came in here focused from day one, and to see his improvement from the beginning of the season to the end was special. What you saw from De’Aaron over the last month and a half of the season I think is what NBA teams will get for the future.”
Faced with the unenviable task of replacing 2016 Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year award winner Tyler Ulis, Fox filled his shoes admirably this season and made his mark as one of the nation's fastest and craftiest players. He averaged 16.7 points, 4.6 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals, one of only four freshmen in the country to average at least those numbers in all four categories. Markelle Fultz (Washington), Dennis Smith Jr. (NC State) and Michael Weathers (Miami, Ohio) were the others.
A four-time SEC Freshman of the Week selection, Fox was named the most valuable player of the 2017 SEC Tournament after leading the Wildcats to their third consecutive title. In addition to All-SEC First Team honors by the Associated Press and the league’s coaches, Fox was named a third-team All-American by USA Today and CBS Sports.
Fox’s 4.6 assists per game was the best mark in the SEC and 11th nationally among freshmen. The Houston native also ranked fourth in the SEC with a 1.9 assist-to-turnover ratio. His scoring average was sixth in the SEC and 10th nationally among all freshmen.
His 165 assists are the third most by a UK freshman in a single season.
Fox’s two crowning achievements this season are a toss-up. He posted just the second triple-double in school history and the first since Chris Mills in December of 1988 when he recorded 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in a dominating victory over Arizona State. Perhaps saving his best for last, Fox scored a record 39 points in the victory over UCLA in the Sweet 16. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the 39 points are the most ever by a freshman in an NCAA Tournament game.
The NBA Draft Combine will take place May 9-14 in Chicago.
Since Calipari joined the Wildcat program for the 2009-10 season, UK has produced 28 NBA Draft picks over seven seasons, more than double any other school. Included in the 28 are 21 first-round selections, three No. 1 overall picks, 11 top-10 selections and 14 lottery picks.
Of the 18 players in the Calipari era who declared for the NBA Draft after one season at Kentucky, all 18 were drafted in the first round.
Photo by Jamie H. Vaught