UK Recruiting

Five-star point guard Fox commits to Kentucky, called 'a great match' with Calipari

2015 NIKE EYBL. SESSION 4. Minneapolis, MN.
2015 NIKE EYBL. SESSION 4. Minneapolis, MN. Jon Lopez

The recruiting message that resonated with De'Aaron Fox was simple in concept but steeped in expectation.

That message, delivered by John Calipari: "Be the next great Kentucky point guard."

Fox signed on to do just that Thursday night, announcing his commitment to the Wildcats during a nationally televised recruiting special on ESPNU.

The 6-foot-4 prospect from Katy, Texas, is considered the No. 1 point guard in the class of 2016 and one of the very best overall players in a group that has been hailed as one of the most talented in years.

Calipari has said that this could be one of his best recruiting classes at Kentucky — a lofty claim — and he decided over the summer that Fox was who he wanted to run the show.

"Coach Cal was great," Fox told the Herald-Leader. "The way he and Coach (Kenny) Payne recruited me, I just felt like I couldn't go wrong going there. The fan support is amazing. It's the marquee college basketball school.

"And, of course, the track record of point guards that he's sent to the NBA — why wouldn't you want to go there if you were in my position?"

Fox will come to Lexington next season with arguably the highest expectations of any UK point guard since John Wall, who helped resurrect the program in Calipari's first season as head coach, six years ago.

247Sports national analyst Jerry Meyer has said that Fox reminds him of Wall in some ways and of former UK star Brandon Knight in others.

Boiled down, Fox is the prototypical college point guard, a player with an elite combination of size, skill and basketball IQ. He can shoot, penetrate and pass with the best of them, and his attention to defense is something rarely seen in a prospect his age.

"I think he's a total-package guy, and he's pretty much at an elite level in every regard," said Meyer, who ranks Fox as the No. 2 overall player in the country. "It's not often you find a guy who has such a solid game, has the leadership abilities, the competitiveness, the ability to make others better. And he can make all of the plays you'd want a point guard to make."

Fox caught Calipari's attention — and earned his UK scholarship offer — this past summer, but he's been on the national recruiting stage for much longer.

He made his first appearance on the Nike EYBL circuit during the summer following his freshman season. One of the youngest players to ever compete in that league, he was called up to play with a squad that included Justin Jackson, Kelly Oubre and Justise Winslow — three elite prospects, two of whom are currently in the NBA.

"I was 14, 15 years old then," Fox said. "They just showed me the ropes. ... Coming up, it made it a lot easier. And I played against Jahlil Okafor and Emmanuel Mudiay and all those guys that are in the NBA now. I kind of know what to expect.

"I felt like it wouldn't be a problem to go to Kentucky and play with all the players that they have and they're bringing in. It made it a lot easier for me."

Fox's game has grown with time. He led the Nike EYBL — the premier summer league in the country — in assists and steals this year and was also among the top-10 scorers on the circuit.

It was during that run that Calipari extended the UK scholarship offer and centered on Fox as his point guard of the future.

He joins a recruiting class that already includes five-star small forward Wenyen Gabriel, who officially signed with the Cats on Wednesday, and five-star power forward Sacha Killeya-Jones, who will sign with UK on Saturday.

Calipari is also targeting several other top recruits, chief among them Malik Monk, a five-star combo guard who Fox specifically mentioned during his nationally televised announcement Thursday.

He later told the Herald-Leader that he and Monk have spoken several times about teaming up together in college. Those conversations will continue as Monk contemplates his own college decision, which likely won't come until the spring.

"He's going to be a great guard," Fox said. "Everybody's preaching John Wall-Eric Bledsoe 2.0. I honestly feel like we can be better than them."

Fox and Monk were two of the recruits that Kentucky hosted for last month's Big Blue Madness event. The Cats were already considered the favorites for Fox going into that weekend, but it was then that Calipari seemingly sealed the deal.

Fox possesses the competitive nature that would make him want to live up to comparisons to Wall and Knight and Derrick Rose. He's also unselfish enough to relish the challenge of playing with other future pros.

On that trip to UK, he found the perfect fit.

"I just thought, 'This is where I belong.' I felt like I couldn't go anywhere else. Trying to picture myself in a different jersey, it just couldn't happen."