People in the Houston suburb of Katy, Texas, aren't surprised that there is a lot of buzz surrounding De'Aaron Fox heading into Thursday's NBA draft.
They have been experiencing such hoopla since Fox was dominating varsity competition as an attack-minded freshman at Cypress Lakes High School.
So, folks in the southeast part of Texas weren't amazed when the Kentucky point guard scored 39 points in an 86-75 victory over UCLA in an NCAA Sweet 16 game in March. That's the night that Fox destroyed UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball and momentarily quieted Ball's outspoken father, LaVar.
"They would be crazy not to" draft Fox, Cypress Lakes athletic director and football coach Ronald Patton said of the 76ers. "I just sat down with some other people that came to the school that are looking to move up to get him.
"If they don't draft him, and they have the opportunity, they are absolutely crazy."
But the Sixers are in talks with the Boston Celtics, who have the first pick in the draft. The Sixers would get the Celtics' pick in exchange for the third pick, the Los Angeles Lakers' 2018 first-round pick and possibly a 2021 first-rounder. This would enable the Sixers to select Washington point guard Markelle Fultz.
The trade, if it happens, could be agreed upon in the coming days. However, word out of Boston on Saturday is that the trade won't be done until draft night.
Fultz worked out for the Sixers on Saturday evening at their practice facility. Hours earlier, Fox was in the same building trying to impress the team during his workout.
Doing their due diligence, the Sixers worked Fox out just in case they remain at No. 3. The speedster could go anywhere from the Lakers at No. 2 to the Sacramento Kings at No.5 in the draft.
He has worked out for the Lakers, Sixers, Phoenix Suns (who have the fourth pick) and Kings.
Yet, like Patton, Fox said he would be a perfect fit for the Sixers.
"I feel like I'm able to change a team," Fox said. "I had older guys be able to listen to me, earn their respect, just a good person to be around.
"I feel like I'm a good player. Coming here, I will get better."
Fox is likely to be a difference maker wherever he ends up. More than a standout basketball player, folks rave about the positive impact the 19-year-old has already made.
While at Cypress Lakes, Fox, along with his high school basketball coach, Emmanuel Olatunbosun, started something they tabbed "brand building."
"What we were trying to do is promote education and community service through the sport," said Olatunbosum, also known as Coach O. "His senior year, our whole thing was about brand building. Obviously, he led the campaign for it. He kind of held on to it now to this day."
Fox said it was his responsibility to go back to his junior high and elementary schools to talk to students about working hard both in the class room and in athletics. He stresses the importance of looking people in the eyes and speaking well during interviews.
But he doesn't just care about the children. One day, Fox, along with his parents, Lorraine and Aaron; Olatunbosun; and couple of his friends drove to the north side of Houston and passed out hot dogs and potato chips to the homeless.
"Something I always wanted to do is give back to the community," Fox said. "I fell like you can never go wrong giving back. For me, it's always good to go help someone."
As nice as Fox is off the court, he's a menace on it.
He averaged 16.7 points, a Southeastern Conference-leading 4.6 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals last season as a freshman. He was named the SEC tournament's MVP after averaging 22 points.
"For a kid that age, who is a blue-chipper, what's a rare quality about him you notice immediately was De'Aaron Fox defends, and you don't always see that from these blue-chip point guards," said Elan Vinokurov, who own the NBA draft scouting service EV Hoops. "They don't always play full court and pick up somebody up or see a Lonzo Ball [in the NCAA tournament] and say, 'I'm going to raise my level defensively so [Ball] struggles."
Fox held Ball to 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting in their Sweet 16 encounter.
It's not hard to find out where Fox gets his athleticism.
Lorraine and Aaron Fox were both standout athletes who met at East Mississippi Junior College in Scooba, Miss. Lorraine went on to play forward for the women's basketball team at Arkansas-Little Rock, and she made 92.8 percent of her foul shots. Aaron went on to play football at Fort Hays State in Kansas, and he is still an imposing man at 6-foot-5, 260 pounds.
"Dad was a bonafide athlete," Olatunbosum said. "He let [De'Aaron] know. He stayed on him, and it was never good enough."
Aaron is the type of parent who called De'Aaron the greatest after his numerous 40-point scoring outbursts. He would also remind Fox that he missed four would-be rebounds, didn't dive for a loose ball and should have made more foul shots.
"I remember vividly a game where he scored 50 points, and I walked over like, 'Man, he did that. He brought us back,' " Olatunbosum said. "He was like, 'No. No.' He was upset, and he just scored 50!
"We got back to the school and get off the bus, and De'Aaron is in there shooting free throws."
Aaron Fox had a method to his attitude. He wanted to let De'Aaron know that scoring points does not make a great player.
Lorraine Fox balanced things out, always telling De'Aaron what a great job he was doing.
But Aaron's tactic made watching his son's dominance over UCLA and Ball more gratifying for the father.
"I looked over, and Dad had his head up," Olatunbosum said. "I think he was going to drop a tear. It was one of those moments like, 'You got it. You figured it out even though he's had a million great games before that.' "
Now, Fox is going to embark on the toughest phase on his basketball career.
With elite speed, he has drawn comparisons to Washington Wizards all-star point guard John Wall, a former Wildcat, too. The biggest question marks are his durability and shooting.
Fox is undersized at 6-3 and 169 pounds. And he shot just 24.6 percent on three-pointers last season.
"In today's NBA if you are a point guard and you can't shoot, it's scary," Vinokurov said. "Look at Emmanuel Mudiay and Elfrid Payton and the fact that these guys can't make a three-point shot, and guards can kind of sag off of them. It takes away from what you want to do.
"So, if De'Aaron Fox can't shoot, he better be the fastest and most explosive guy in the league. If not, he's going to have struggles."
Olatunbosum will tell you that not being able to shoot is a misconception about Fox. He points out that Fox had the freedom to take whatever shot he wanted in high school. But at Kentucky, his job was to get everyone involved. As a result, his shooting may have suffered.
However, his three-point shooting increased each month he was at Kentucky. He shot 13.3 percent in November, 15.4 percent in December, 23.1 percent in January, 25.0 percent in February and 43.8 percent in March.
"I kind of kept the same routine, kept getting in the gym [and] getting my repetition," Fox said. "At the end of the season, it was just clicking."
The Sixers are interested in Fultz because he would be the perfect fit to pair with 6-10 point guard Ben Simmons. He can score and create opportunities for others. Fultz can also play off the ball and be a solid addition next to Simmons.
But Olatunbosum said that Fox and Simmons would be a great tandem, too.
"If he went to Philly, I see the new LeBron and Kyrie," he said, referring to Cleveland Cavaliers all-stars LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. "That's what I see because Ben is supposed to the next kind of LeBron-type player. You know, on the ball, big guard, do whatever, and De'Aaron has got all that. And then you got Hakeem Olajuwon in the paint" in Joel Embiid.