Cunning as a Summer Fox is an apt way to describe her philosophy and style of play on the basketball court.
“I guess I don’t want to play defense for a long time because it makes the game boring,” said Fox, a senior at Pueblo High School and a top member of the Tucson Rattlers, a highly successful summer girls basketball club team.
What she said can be taken the wrong way. The “cunning as a fox” part comes in for one of the top guards in Southern Arizona because she explains that comment this way:
“I just try to get the ball so we can have more possessions to score and make the tempo go faster.”
It all makes sense.
Fox had six steals in a game today for the Tucson Rattlers to help her team improve to 3-0 in the NCAA Super Showcase in Las Vegas. Fox has tallied 12 steals and is averaging 6.7 assists in the three games.
She had 25 steals and averaged 5.2 assists per game in Rattlers’ 5-1 showing at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Chicago two weeks ago.
In nine games this July evaluation period for college coaches, Fox, 5-foot-7, is averaging an unbelievable 4.1 steals a game.
“She is a one-man press,” Tucson Rattlers coach Chris Klassen said. “I put her on a point guard and she just wears that person down to where they don’t want to bring the ball up and they defer to somebody else. Now, we can create turnovers from somebody who does not handle the ball and we can break them down.”
College coaches are starting to take notice since Fox’s Chicago performance. Klassen mentioned 10 colleges have inquired about her since then, and 16 coaches attended this morning’s game between the Tucson Rattlers and Cal Storm Elite at the Tarkanian Basketball Academy in Las Vegas.
The recruiting spotlight on her should extend to the upcoming season with the Warriors, who went 30-3 and lost in the state title game last season under coach Ismael Galindo.
Galindo’s constant full-court pressure style of play has made an obvious impact on how Fox plays defense tirelessly.
“We just press the whole game (at Pueblo),” Fox said. “We get a lot of chances to score offensively (because of the defense). It’s just like really, really, really fast-paced. People call it controlled chaos.”
Fox’s tenacity has paid dividends for the Rattlers, who play under the motto of “Defeat the Expectations,” created by a defensive whiz herself, assistant coach Nalani Hernandez. A former Tucson High School standout, Hernandez was a conference defensive player of the year her senior season at Western New Mexico in 2014-15.
The Rattlers have surpassed expectations with their 8-1 record this month despite losing talented Sabino sophomore guard Kiya Dorroh to the elite Cal Swish 17U team this summer.
Also gone, now in college after earning scholarships: Catalina Foothills forward Audrey Nicholson (Boston University), Ironwood Ridge guard Natalie Bartle (Colorado Mesa), The Gregory School forward Taylor Thompson (Concordia University) and Cienega forward Lauren Green (Long Beach State).
The Rattlers have “double-double machines” — as Klassen calls them — this summer with forwards Nikya Orange of Tanque Verde and Bella Hamel of Ironwood Ridge. But it’s Fox who sets the tone for her team, who plays in a semifinal game at 9 a.m. tomorrow in Las Vegas. If the Rattlers win, they will play in the title game at 11.
“She has an instinct and a passion for defense not a lot of people have,” Klassen said. “We want her to shoot more and be aggressive, but she busts her butt on defense. It’s fun to watch. She has a knack for reading the person she is guarding and being a gnat. She is always in there, always getting a steal, getting a deflection, a tip of the pass.
“Away from the ball, she has great instincts, shooting the gaps when she is reading the pass that’s being made or doubling down on a post player. Some of those things you can’t teach. People just have it. She definitely has the instincts you can’t teach. It’s a lot of fun to see. The cool part is when she does that the other girls raise their level.”
The Rattlers yielded only 62 points in the two games in Las Vegas today.
Smart as a Fox, the defensive ace of the team reasons the Rattlers’ success this way:
“Defense is the key because if they can’t score, we can’t lose.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.