De’Aaron Fox’s season is over – in fact, his college career is likely over – but he may be the most memorable player of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. The Kentucky freshman scored 39 points in a Sweet 16 win over UCLA, and, after losing to North Carolina on a last-second bucket in the Elite Eight, he cried in the locker room while hugging teammate Bam Adebayo.
It was a poignant moment – one that college basketball fans won’t soon forget.
“I actually really liked the fact that he was crying,” NBCSports.com college basketball writer Rob Dauster said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “It’s one of the criticisms that you get with this one-and-done culture, especially with Kentucky, is that these guys are almost basketball mercenaries. They come in, they don’t care about the school, they don’t connect with the people, they just want to get there for that one year, spend their several months on campus, and then get out of there and go makes millions in the NBA. Well, even if they’re only on campus for one year, it doesn’t mean that they don’t care about winning or don’t care about their teammates.
“That video was tough for me to watch,” Dauster continued. “I don’t like seeing kids in that situation crying like that. I know it means a lot to them, and I kind of hate that that camera gets shoved in their face. But I think it was good for a lot of people to see that this kid, he cares that much about this program and about his teammates and about the guys that were in that locker room. I think it was a good sign to people that, hey, maybe this one-and-done thing might not be the best thing in the world, but it’s really not all that bad.”
Fox led Kentucky with 13 points. He was one of five Wildcats to score in double figures, but Kentucky had no answer for Justin Jackson, who scored a game-high 19 points, and Luke Maye, who hit the game-winning jumper with 0.3 seconds to go. Maye finished with 17 points.
Nevertheless, many Kentucky fans blamed the loss on poor officiating.
“That’s kind of how that fan base operates,” Dauster said. “I thought that Kentucky did get a little bit of a tough whistle in the first half, and I understand why John Calipari was as mad as he was. But when it comes down to it, if they get one stop, then that game’s going to overtime. And they were up by five with four minutes left, so to me, I don’t think you have any complaints about the refs overall. You might have been upset about a couple calls, but they were in a position to win that game, even with the calls that didn’t go their way. So I hope Kentucky fans aren’t still blaming the refs for that loss. They ran into a great team, and a great team made a play. It’s what happens in basketball, and it’s what happens in sports.”