With the 2017 NBA draft a little more than a month away, Kentucky freshman point guard De'Aaron Fox tells ESPN in a Q&A that he's on a mission to prove his skill set and versatility are unique from those of his freshman point guard counterparts.
Projected as a Top 10 prospect in most mock drafts, Fox is expected to be the third point guard selected behind Washington's Markelle Fultz and UCLA's Lonzo Ball, who are widely seen as the top two overall picks in the draft. During Fox's lone collegiate season, he averaged 16.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.5 steals while shooting 48 percent from the field.
At 6-foot-4, he's a speedy playmaking nightmare in transition. His wiry length and energetic disposition allow him to pick up his opponents for the length of the court defensively. That's one area Fox believes separates him from the pack.
"Defensively, I feel like I'm definitely the best guard in the draft," he said. "I'm confident in myself. For me, it's not about offensive scoring, I want to shut the other guy down."
Editor's note: The NBA draft combine is May 9-14, the draft lottery is May 16 and the 2017 NBA draft will be held on June 22.
Chris Haynes: Several of the top players are not attending the NBA combine in Chicago. Why are you going?
De'Aaron Fox: "Ever since I was younger, I've always wanted to go to the combine. It's a part of the draft process so I've always pictured myself going. Some guys don't go but for me, I just wanted to be there."
CH: Your draft stock spiked north during tournament play. Looking back on it, how much did that factor into your decision to turn pro?
DF: "It was extremely important. It helped me, just because during the year I kind of struggled but I feel like I peaked at the right moment and settled into the big games. Not just the NCAA tournament, but the SEC tournament I played great. I feel like that helped me tremendously not only improve my draft stock, but just getting people to recognize my game and understanding that I want to compete at the highest level."
CH: Do you look at the mock drafts?
DF: "I don't necessarily look at it, but fans tag you so sometimes you'll see it."
CH: Are you comfortable with Fultz and Ball being positioned in front of you on most mocks?
DF: "I'm fine with it. At the end of the day, we still got to get on the court and play. If they're picked ahead of me, then they're picked ahead of me. At the end of the day, it doesn't mean much but I just want to be productive on the court."
CH: You scored 39 points and thoroughly outplayed Ball (10 points, eight assists) in a head-to-head matchup in the Sweet 16. Did that win, and that performance, do anything for your confidence level?
DF: "Honestly, they beat us the first time, so I didn't want to let my team lose again. Especially getting that far. I didn't want to lose to a team that we had already lost to. I came out and I started performing and I was playing well at the beginning of the game. Coach and my teammates, they just told me they were going to ride with me and I ended up having a good game."
CH: Why did you ultimately decide to play for John Calipari at Kentucky?
DF: "Just being able to play with great players. I've actually watched him get the best out of players and I knew going in that one, it was going to be tough and two, he was going to get everything out of me and that's what he did. I knew going there that I wasn't going to regret anything. Even if I had to stay another year, I knew he wanted to help me and he genuinely wanted what's best for his players."
CH: Did you feel that you were always a one-and-done player?
DF: "If I needed another year, I would have done it. I wouldn't have forced my way into the draft If I wasn't ready. But honestly, it was really just the competitiveness coming out of me. Even if I knew I was going one year, that loss [in the Elite 8] would have still hurt because that was our chance to win a national championship. That was our goal with all of us freshmen coming together. So that was really just the competitiveness coming out of me. I was angry that we lost. I kind of knew that was my last ride, but that doesn't stop my competitive juices from flowing."
CH: I understand you're working out at The Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks. What's your main emphasis of training in preparation for your upcoming draft workouts?
DF: "Every aspect of my game. Right now, I know definitely in the NBA, I'm going to have to shoot it a lot better. Other than that, working on ball handling, getting my handles tight. Guards in the league, not only guards, guys like Giannis [Antetokounmpo], they can all dribble the ball. So just trying to catch up to their skill level and just being stronger. The game has changed. Guys are so athletic and so strong, it's going to be tough if you can't match that physicality."
CH: Do you think your game will translate instantly in the NBA game?
DF: "I think my game will transition well, especially because I'm able to rebound from the guard spot. Even if I'm not rebounding it, catching an outlet pass and being able to push and create for my team. I feel like my game will be able to translate by getting in the lane, making floaters or layups with either hand. All I'm about is just helping my team. That's what I want to do. I think my game will translate well in the NBA."
CH: When you're interviewing with general managers and coaches, what's one thing you want them to know about you?
DF: "That I'm a winner and I'm just somebody good to have in the locker room. I won't cause any trouble, I'm a good team player. Even though coming in young, I want to be able to help a team, be able to lead a team. I want them to know they're getting a winner."
CH: Who does your game best resemble?
DF: "Probably one that everybody says: John Wall. The way John's been playing, I have no problems being compared to him. I just want to be able to come into the league and do what he's doing and try to do more. He's a great player to be compared to."
CH: What NBA player has given you advice during this draft process and what has been their message?
DF: "I've talked to John [Wall] a few times about it and Karl-Anthony Towns. They're just telling me go in and show teams how confident you are. Every workout, you're probably not going to shoot it well. We all have those days, but just always being confident even in interviews like this. Don't be timid. Just show them you're an alpha dog. It's tough in the league and you want to command that respect when you get there."
CH: What makes you an alpha dog?
DF: "Man, I couldn't even tell you. I was born in New Orleans, grew up in Houston. I'm a certain breed."
CH: Whose game do you most admire?
DF: "My favorite player was Kevin Garnett growing up. Just seeing the fire he played with and how much passion he played with, it just made me want to play like that. He gave you 110 percent every time he got on the floor. Seeing that made me want to do that. I'm just trying to get in the shape where I'm able to do that game in and game out."
CH: That Kentucky basketball fraternity is robust. What is it like being a part of that?
DF: "It's extremely cool. It doesn't matter if they played at Kentucky eight years ago or last year, everybody just treats each other like family. These are max contract guys coming back and talking to you like you're their little brother. It's really just cool and a blessing to be a part of that. Seeing that they are no different from us, they're just really good at basketball. Just being around that is amazing to see how many players have gone through it and are able to give you advice. Everybody's situation is different, but it's just great to have guys like that around."