Earlier in the week, I highlighted the media’s outpouring of love for the UCLA Bruin’s and Lonzo Ball. It was as if the Kentucky Wildcats and De’Aaron Fox were there to hand the crown to Ball and the Bruins as they cruised their way to the Final Four.
And let’s not forget Mr. LaVar Ball, the father of Lonzo. “He can’t mess with Zo”, Ball said of Fox, “You can have forty points and Lonzo can have two points and make the game winner, and I’m going with him. You had more points but look at who won the game.” Ball concluded about Fox, “I don’t know if he would be in the top five of the draft for me. I want a bigger, stronger. guy.”
Through all of his buffoonery, LaVar ended up being a little prophetic. While Fox didn’t put up forty, he was damn close with 39 points.
And Lonzo didn’t have two, but he was outclassed, out-quicked, and completely outplayed by his foe. Fox ran Ball ragged all over the court. The National Freshman of the Year was grabbing his shorts at the end of the game due to the fact that he had to chase Fox all over the court on defense and failed miserably at it.
Look, Lonzo is a great college player. I think many people have decided not to like him because of the hype and bluster that his father has built around him. Has that influenced GM’s and draft experts to look at Ball more favorably? I doubt it but it’s possible.
I know this: if I was a NBA GM, I’m leaving that game with Fox ahead of Ball on my draft list. The UK guard is faster, more athletic, and a more prolific scorer. Twice Fox has outdueled Ball this season. With Fox the ceiling is higher and with some bulking up, has a more NBA ready body.
Fox did go through a bit of a slump, but he battled a knee injury, an ankle injury, and an illness. Once he was back to being healthy, he started to dominate again. He is now forcing contact and finishing through defenders instead of shying away from contact. He gotten better.
Ball is still going to go higher in the draft and the national media will still be more focused on him and his blabber mouth dad, but Mike DeCourcy of Sporting News is at least one voice yelling to the heavens that we must talk up Fox’s dominance of Ball.
It wouldn’t be hyperbole to declare that De'Aaron Fox blew Lonzo Ball off the floor with 39 points and four assists. Those were the most points ever scored by a freshman in an NCAA Tournament game. Think about that. Michael Jordan played in the tournament as a freshman. So did Magic Johnson and Steph Curry. But let’s not allow all that to get out of hand.
But it wasn’t just the offensive explosion from Fox that caught DeCourcy’s eye.
The offensive explosion from Fox was easy to see and easier to quantify. His performance on defense, and the team’s work collectively on that end, might have been even more impressive.
This is where yet again Ball and Fox aren’t on the same plane. Fox has the speed and quickness to defend at an elite level. We’ve seen it, it’s just about him wanting to do it.
And right, now he and the rest of his teammates want to do it. UK has morphed from an offensive juggernaut with a one track mind going towards the basket to a team that focuses and takes pride in defense. UCLA remained a one-trick pony and that was their ultimate demise.
De’Aaron Fox and the Kentucky Wildcats have another monumental task ahead of them facing off against the North Carolina Tar Heels for the Regional Title. Again Fox will battle against an elite point guard in Joel Berry III.
Can he continue to produce and be the best player on the floor like he has been since the SEC tournament and send Berry III to join Ball on the sidelines as he continues to grow his legend and prowess?
We won’t have long to find out.