In October of 2015 at a USA Basketball camp featuring several elite point guards from a loaded 2016 high school class, De'Aaron Fox had a statement to make.
"We have an abundance of elite point guards, but I feel like I'm the best," a 17-year-old Fox said. "I feel like I've proven it on each level."
Although he was selected behind highly touted guards such as Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball in the 2017 NBA draft, Fox is making that declaration a reality, quickly emerging as a future star and Sacramento Kings cornerstone.
"He's fantastic, man," one NBA head coach said. "Tremendous improvement for me. He distorts your defense so much just by putting pressure on the rim constantly. I think he's going to end up being one of the best point guards [in the league] when it's all said and done, or at least he has that potential."
Through 51 games this season, Fox is averaging 21 points and 6.8 assists with a career-best 55.8 true shooting percentage while terrifying opposing defenses with his open-court speed and elite change of pace. Bring up his name to coaches around the league and you'll hear a similar sentiment.
"He's a freaking rocket," one defensive-focused lead assistant said. "It was my scout and you're trying to tell your guys, 'Yo, this dude is fast.' But he's so fast that you can't do it justice on film. His speed getting from one end to the other end is, like, it's the John Walls, it's the [Russell] Westbrooks."
Speed has always been Fox's superpower. Since he first burst onto the scouting scene as a teenager, sports scientists and evaluators alike have raved about his quickness and reaction time. But his athletic gifts didn't lead to success as a rookie. Fox posted a negative-10.2 net rating and was one of only seven starters with a true shooting percentage below 50%.
"Oh man, I was bad my rookie year, I was really bad," Fox said during a virtual film session from the Orlando bubble. "I was still fast and all that, but just the understanding of the game wasn't there because most of my life I got by on pure athleticism, just being faster and jumping higher.
"It looked like a totally different De'Aaron Fox in those clips."
Fox is now one of the top young point guards in the NBA. He's in line for an extension this summer, which has to be a priority for the Kings' front office given his emergence over the past two seasons.
Here's how the 6-4 lefty has elevated his game, offering a blueprint for how other athletic NBA point guards can replicate what Fox learned after a challenging rookie year.