The most eye-opening individual performance of the 2017 NCAA Tournament was from Kentucky freshman point guard De’Aaron Fox against Lonzo Ball and UCLA in the Sweet 16. Ball entered the game viewed as arguably the best player in the tournament, and arguably the top NBA prospect.
Sure enough there was a remarkable performance at the point guard position in the game, but from the guy on the other team. Fox dropped 39 points (13-of-20 from the field) on Ball and the Bruins to lead the Wildcats to an 86-75 win.
Fox’s NCAA Tournament performance certainly boosted his draft stock, and he’s expected to be selected around the top-five of next week’s NBA Draft.
Well, Sports Illustrated’s Andrew Sharp caught up with Fox as the point guard prepares for the draft, and asked Fox what his mindset was going into the Sweet 16 game against UCLA. Fox gave an answer that should quickly make him a fan favorite: “Shut LaVar Ball up.”
“Kill mode all the time,” is how Fox described his mindset before the UCLA game in March. “Shut Lavar Ball up,” is how he explains it a few months later.
Of course, he says he had other motivations, too. UCLA fans were talking too much. And he always plays better in big games. And he loved Kentucky. When they lost to North Carolina two days later, he was in tears in the locker room as his career came to an end.
He’s still cool with Lonzo and his brothers. The elder Ball was just a puzzling wrinkle that added some motivation along the way. “In the last year, he became relevant for some reason,” Fox says. “When I knew Lonzo in high school, I’d never seen his dad before. He went crazy this year. I guess when your son a lottery pick, that gives you a lot of confidence.”
Unfortunately the effort still wasn’t good enough to get LaVar Ball to stop talking, because no such effort is possible. Regardless, job well done by Fox, and another example of Lavar’s schtick probably not being in the best interest of his son. There will constantly be a target on Lonzo’s back in his rookie season, and everything he does will be under a microscope, all because of his father’s antics.
Now, what would really anger LaVar would be if the Los Angeles Lakers took Fox instead of Lonzo with the No. 2 overall pick.