De'Aaron Fox is one of the point guards gunning for the top of the NBA Draft. In March, he dominated another: UCLA's Lonzo Ball.
Fox scored 39 points against Ball's Bruins in the NCAA Tournament, hitting 13-of-20 shots from the field. Ball wasn't the only one defending Fox that day, but no one really gave the explosive guard any trouble.
It was his second very strong performance against Ball and the Bruins that year. UCLA pulled out the win in the first match-up on December 3, but he did go for 20 points and nine assists. Ball averaged 12 points and 7.5 assists in two games against Fox.
Ball's father LaVar has dominated much of the conversation around him during the NBA Draft process, and Fox had heard the things that the loud "Big Baller Brand" magnate had drummeed up in the build-up to the NCAA Tournament game.
He told Sports Illustrated's Andrew Sharp that quieting LaVar was a major motivation for him heading into the game.
"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.
Interestingly, he says that back in high school, LaVar Ball was never making this kind of noise when Fox used to play against Lonzo.
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."
Ball is still widely projected to be the No. 2 pick to the Los Angeles Lakers, but the team has worked out Fox, and there is a chance the Kentucky guard can beat him for a second time this year.