LEXINGTON, Ky. — The first domino dropped in what will almost certainly be another flood of Kentucky freshmen to the pros. Star point guard De’Aaron Fox declared for the 2017 NBA Draft and plans to hire an agent, eliminating any possibility he could change his mind before the NCAA deadline, the school announced Monday.
In a statement provided by UK, Fox thanked the program’s fans, his family, the Wildcats coaching staff and teammates “for being on this ride with me … specifically Zay (sophomore guard Isaiah Briscoe) for guiding me this season. It wouldn’t have been such a smooth transition from high school to college without their leadership.”
Fox, a former McDonald’s All-American, averaged 16.7 points, 4.6 assists and 4.0 rebounds in his only season at Kentucky. Before becoming the Cats’ 19th one-and-done in eight seasons under coach John Calipari, he earned MVP honors at the SEC Tournament and scored 39 points against potential No. 1 pick Lonzo Ball and UCLA in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
“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,” said Fox, who sobbed after UK’s final defeat on a buzzer beater against North Carolina in the Elite Eight. “With that being said … I think it’s time for me to live out my dream.”
Fox’s pro stock soared in the postseason, when looked at times like the best player in the country. Draft Express projects the 6-foot-3 point guard to go sixth overall in the June 22 draft. ESPN’s draft guru, Chad Ford, wrote in his most recent stock watch that Fox could now go somewhere between fourth and eighth overall.
He would become the sixth Kentucky point guard drafted in coach John Calipari’s eight seasons, joining John Wall, Brandon Knight, Marquis Teague, Andrew Harrison and Tyler Ulis.
“De’Aaron’s speed, length and ability to pick up defensively from 94 feet set him apart from his peers,” Calipari said in the school-issued news release. “De’Aaron came in here focused from Day 1, and to see his improvement from the beginning of the season to the end of the season 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.”
Now the Wildcats wait for official decisions from two other freshman stars, shooting guard Malik Monk and forward Bam Adebayo, and Briscoe. They have until 11:59 p.m. ET on April 23 to submit their names for the 2017 NBA Draft.
If Monk and Briscoe both leave, in addition to the departures of senior guards Dominique Hawkins and Mychal Mulder, Kentucky’s backcourt will be a complete reboot for the 2017-18 season. The Cats signed 5-star point guard Quade Green and 5-star shooting guard Hamidou Diallo is already on campus after enrolling in January but sitting out the second half of UK’s season.
Very emotional Kentucky locker room as expected. pic.twitter.com/ksNn4iOGHW
— Joe Mussatto (@joe_mussatto) March 26, 2017