By LARRY VAUGHT
De’Aaron Fox didn’t need long to show Kentucky fans that coach John Calipari could well have another special point guard.
He had 12 points and 12 assists — the most ever by a freshman in his UK debut — in Kentucky’s season-opening 87-64 win over Stephen F. Austin. Kyle Macy had the previous assist mark of 10 in his Big Blue debut in 1977.
Isaiah Briscoe, Julius Randle and Terrence Jones are the only players to debut with a double-double under Calipari.
Fox was 3-for-9 from the field but his court leadership was obvious from the start. So was his defense as he forced two turnovers in the game’s first five minutes.
Senior Derek Willis also came out on fire and had 10 quick points before finishing with 15 points, five rebounds, two blocks and one assist. Briscoe led UK with 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting.
Freshmen Bam Adebayo and Malik Monk both went scoreless and reboundless in the first half and played only a combined seven minutes because of foul problems. Monk, who was only 4-for-14 from the field, finished with 10 points and Adebayo five points and just one rebound. Wenyen Gabriel had 10 points, all in the first half.
Stephen F. Austin coach Kyle Keller, who was an assistant at Texas A&M last year, came away impressed with UK.
“I think coach Calipari has got the team advertised for sure. We like to hang our hats on playing defense, but we turned it over (28 times) about as much as we do in a week. They make you play one-on-one and they shrink that court. I never seen a court look so small. You cannot simulate their length and quickness on defense. They are going to have a lot of fun this year.”
Keller praised the way Tyler Ulis played last year as UK’s point guard.
“I thought Ulis was one of the greatest college point guards ever. He even knew where the refs and ball boys were. He could dominate a game,” Keller said. “But De’Aaron and Monk with their speed. Those three Cats (including Briscoe) on the perimeter … you have to guard them and last year you didn’t Briscoe. They are really good.
“Willis is the perfect stretch four for them. (Isaac) Humphries is better and Bam Bam inside. We cannot guard Gabriel. Coach Cal was just toying with us. He doesn’t know who to play. He is just picking based on who played well in the shootaround.”