Upon further review, De’Aaron Fox’s performance Monday night will officially be recognized as the second triple-double in the history of Kentucky men’s basketball.
Fox scored 14 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and was credited with 10 assists in UK’s 115-69 victory over Arizona State.
After the game, one of Fox’s assists was questioned by ESPN. This led to a review of the play, and served as a reminder of the subjective nature of basketball assists. One person’s pass setting up a basket can be, say, another person’s routine feed to a post player.
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On Wednesday, the Fox assist under review was ruled as official.
Bill Coteron, the vice president and general manager for the Atlantis Showcase, issued a statement about the ruling.
“We certainly appreciate the attention to the issue regarding the stats for De’Aaron Fox,” Coteran said. “After careful consideration, we have determined that no changes to the initial box score will be made. Due to the fast-paced nature of the game, we felt the credit applied in-game was valid.
“We regret that this was brought into question and certainly hope it doesn’t take away from his outstanding MVP performance.”
A video of the play shows Fox bring the ball across halfcourt. He passes to Sacha Killeya-Jones at about the top of the key extended. Killeya-Jones passes to Wenyen Gabriel at the foul line area. Gabriel passes to Malik Monk, who is standing to the left of the top of the key extended.
After catching the pass, Monk pauses for a moment, then ball-fakes to the left before going right. He dribbles twice while stutter-stepping six or seven times before shooting and making a three-pointer.
The three-pointer put Kentucky ahead 73-32 with 15:15 left in the game. It also put Fox in the UK record book. Another freshman, Chris Mills, had the first, and until Monday only, triple-double in program history: 19 points, 10 rebounds and credit for 10 assists against Austin Peay on Dec. 27, 1988.
Because the opinion of the observer weighs so heavily, the NCAA did not recognize assists as an official statistic from 1953 until 1983.
“I don’t think there was a clear consensus across the country” about how to define an assist, said J.D. Hamilton, an assistant director who leads the NCAA department dealing with men’s basketball statistics. “People were not using the same playing field in giving assists to student-athletes.”
The growing popularity of assists among member schools led the NCAA to begin keeping the statistic in the 1983-84 season. Hamilton likened this change to how the NCAA began compiling blocked shots in the 1985-86 season.
The NCAA’s manual on statistics defines an assist as “when a player makes — in the judgment of a statistician — the principle pass contributing directly to a field goal.”
Added Hamilton: “If there’s two dribbles and a pump fake, then the player has created his own bucket.”
Hamilton did not mention the pace of a game nor chaotic nature of play as a factor in determining if an assist should be awarded.
When asked if there’s a consistency in recognizing assists across the country now, Hamilton said, “This incident is one of the first (questions about an assist) I’ve had in my three years. We trust the membership. We don’t see anything that’s very obvious, that is out of the blue.”
No one from UK was involved in crediting Fox with an assist.
Personnel from the University of Central Florida compiled statistics for the UK-Arizona State game. Nate Blythe, an assistant director of athletic communications for UCF, was the person who credited Fox with an assist.
Blythe did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
Blythe, a UCF graduate, does not regularly work on the UCF stats crew, but he does fill in on occasion, sports information director Dan Forcella said.
Game organizers were aware of the question about Fox’s assist Monday night. After reviewing the video and speaking with both teams, the decision was made to not remove the assist.
The decision to award Fox with an assist was on Blythe’s mind when he returned to UCF on Tuesday.
“He brought it up to me when he first got back from the Bahamas,” Forcella said. “I said, ‘Oh, boy.’”
No. 11 UCLA at No. 1 Kentucky
12:30 p.m. Saturday (CBS-27)