LEXINGTON, Ky. — The scary thing about De’Aaron Fox, perhaps the fastest point guard in college basketball, the guy who blew Asbury’s doors off Sunday night in a breathtaking, 156-63 exhibition blood-letting, is that Kentucky coach John Calipari wants him to go faster.
“Why are you jogging it up?” Calipari asked after Fox poured in 25 points in 17 minutes against the overwhelmed Eagles, who looked more like sacrificial lambs. “Well, you know, to play that way more than four or five minutes is really hard.”
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Nothing was hard for Fox or the second-ranked Wildcats on Sunday night against their shell-shocked NAIA opponent. Fox hit 11 of 14 shots, almost all of them blink-and-he’s-gone drives to the bucket. It was a preview of how Calipari envisions the 5-star freshman playing all the time: in fast-forward.
“He’s absolutely learning to really utilize that speed,” senior guard Mychal Mulder said. “You guys see that a lot more now than you probably did a couple months ago even. He’s one of those guys that can go really fast when he wants to, so you just gotta keep him wanting to, I guess.
“But you see he can go down the court in a couple seconds and finish a tough shot, so it’s really exciting to see him push the ball like that and be able to finish in traffic. I feel like that’s really his strength.”
With Fox leading the way, Kentucky scored 60 fast-break points against Asbury, averaging just 11 seconds per possession and a point every 15.4 seconds Sunday. The Eagles typically play pressure defense and heave quick 3-pointers on the other end, and they didn’t deviate from that style against Kentucky — which the coach admitted afterward might’ve been a miscalculation.
Asbury jacked 49 3s (making just eight) and pressed the Wildcats from start to finish. It didn’t go well.
“Cal always tells us our best press attack is speed,” Fox said. “If they keep pressing, we keep attacking.”
Tyler Ulis’ replacement has been as advertised through Kentucky’s two exhibition games. Fox, a McDonald’s All-American, hit 66.7 percent of his shots and produced 37 points, 11 assists, 9 rebounds, 6 steals and 3 turnovers in 39 total minutes against Division II Clarion and NAIA Asbury.
But he knows the competition is about to crank up in a big way, starting with Friday night’s regular-season opener against Stephen F. Austin, which has reached the round of 32 of the NCAA tournament twice in the last three years. Then a date with No. 12 Michigan State in New York a week from Tuesday.
That’s why Calipari keeps asking him to go faster, faster, faster.
“I love it,” Fox said. “He’s preached it to me (since) I got on campus. In high school, he would always say how casual I am or how I like to play with the ball because I can handle it. Sometimes, I do play with the ball, play with the defender. But when I do use my speed the way he wants me to, it hasn’t hurt me yet.”
No, when Fox steps on the gas, it usually hurts whoever is trying to stay in front of him.
— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) November 7, 2016