There's a certain undefinable quality that has tied all of John Calipari's star point guards together. It's something more specific than world class athleticism or a relentless attitude toward attacking the basket, though that's undoubtedly part of it.
From Derrick Rose to John Wall to Kentucky's new star Jamal Murray, all of Calipari's best guards seem to find a way to be functionally flashy. With the commitment of Texas native De'Aaron Fox on Thursday, the trend is going to continue for at least another year.
You can see bits and pieces of each of Calipari's former greats when you watch Fox. Like Wall, he's a speed demon who's a blur in the open court. Like a young Rose, he's an expert at finishing in traffic either above the rim with a dunk or by contorting his body for a layup. Like both, he has the ability to make you stop dead in your tracks and simply admire the outrageous blend of style and substance that makes his game as entertaining as it is practical.
Fox spent his summer playing for Houston Hoops on Nike's EYBL circuit, where be led the league in assists and steals while finishing No. 15 in points per game. His talent was on full display at the season-ending Peach Jam event, where he averaged 19.3 points, 6.6 assists and 2.4 steals per game.
Fox is the type of player that's hard to take your eyes off on either end of the court. Offensively, his speed is the first thing that jumps out. The class of 2016 is loaded with great point guard prospects, but none are as fast as Fox. If he's surrounded with athletic wings and big men who can run the floor, good luck trying to keep up. He should find everything he needs at Kentucky.
Fox isn't just blessed with straight-line speed, either. He's also impossibly quick with both his hands and his feet. His ability to apply ball pressure and pick the pockets opposing guards leads to a wealth of fastbreak opportunities. His quick feet help him navigate screens and stay in front of his man.
De'Aaron Fox has some of the best lateral quickness I've ever seen. Gets over every screen. So light on his feet. Crazy quick hands as well.— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) October 4, 2015
It all combines to give the 6'3 Fox a knack for highlight reel plays. Chasedown blocks like this one became a regularity this summer. It's almost enough make you feel sympathy for the poor teenager who's tasked with going against him.
Fox doesn't do anything at half speed. He's not content with simply getting two points, he wants to make a statement. He's a confident player who's on record saying he's the best point guard in high school basketball regardless of class.
This is a point guard prospect who's aggressive but rarely out of control, one who takes pride in his defense and wants to play both ends. At Kentucky, Fox will have every opportunity to make like Rose, Wall and Brandon Knight and become a lottery pick after just one season. If he's not, something horribly unexpected must have happened.
Kentucky missed out on Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum, the consensus top-three prospects who are headed together to Duke. Calipari missed out on Miles Bridges, who chose Michigan State. The Wildcats are right there for Malik Monk, but it seems like Arkansas is the favorite.
It might be enough to make you wonder if the shine has started to ware off Calipari's golden touch, but then a player like Fox extinguishes the thought. Fox will be teamed with a super athletic big man in Wenyen Gabriel and another capable athlete in the front court in Sacha Killeya-Jones in UK's 2016 class. This Kentucky team is still going to blitz the country next year even after missing out on some five-stars.
Fox would have been an instant impact point guard at the college level and a likely one-and-done lottery pick regardless of where he chose to go to school. At Kentucky, he's assured of being put in the best possible position to succeed.
Fox's gifts don't just make him a great player, they've produced the type of talent that gets fans to fall in love with the sport. De'Aaron Fox has always been a blur, and he isn't stopping now.