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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Frosh Fogg can’t be bogged down

    Arizona guard Kyle Fogg drives past ASU forward Jeff Pendergraph in a 70-68 Sun Devil win in Wells Fargo Arena on Sunday. Though hes often playfully picked on, Fogg is a big-time contributor for the Wildcats.
    Arizona guard Kyle Fogg drives past ASU forward Jeff Pendergraph in a 70-68 Sun Devil win in Wells Fargo Arena on Sunday. Though he’s often playfully picked on, Fogg is a big-time contributor for the Wildcats.

    Kyle Fogg could be the hero of his hometown, but those closest to him won’t let him know it.

    For a player who flew under the recruiting radar in high school and signed with Arizona less than six months before its first game of the 2008-09 season, the 19-year-old from Brea, Calif., could be a compliment magnet.

    Instead, he’s a Brea boxing bag for his high school friends and teammates.

    “”They talk a lot of crap, actually,”” Fogg said with a smile. “”‘You’re not that good, Fogg.’ I get those texts every day. … My friends definitely don’t let me get big-headed at all.””

    Fogg, a freshman who started in 19 of the Wildcats’ 27 games this season, only averages 6.6 points and 2.2 rebounds per game, but is arguably the hardest-working player on the court. He’s full of intangibles that make UA interim head coach Russ Pennell gush with adoration, calling him one of the most coachable players he’s ever come across.

    “”The biggest thing with Kyle is he’s got a lot of courage,”” Pennell said. “”I don’t know if he doesn’t understand the magnitude of the game or he understands he’s a freshman, or whatever it is – I’m glad he doesn’t understand it. But I really believe it’s (that) he’s willing to step up and take a big shot or get a big steal or a big rebound.””

    Once he realized Arizona’s Big Three juniors – Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill and Nic Wise – drew most of the attention from other teams, Fogg became more aggressive on the offensive end. Throughout the season he spent extra time working on his shot. Sometimes he’ll go to the gym at 9:30 or 10 p.m. to shoot before heading to bed.

    And it’s paid off at crucial times this season.

    When Arizona trailed No. 14 ASU by 17 points Sunday night, Fogg made two 3-pointers to help Arizona go on a 23-4 run and eventually end up leading by two points.

    “”I think he keeps growing leaps and bounds,”” Pennell said. “”He still has some mental lapses from time to time like a lot of freshmen do, but I don’t know if we could have asked for more out of Kyle Fogg this season.””

    Fogg is still a freshman at heart, despite his play on the court. He is still able to eat anything he likes, and though he takes the game seriously, he doesn’t let it consume who he is: a happy-go-lucky, playful kid.

    Like his friends back home, Fogg’s current teammates pick on the freshman, but he sends just as much back. During huddles at practice, Fogg will sometimes slap a teammate on the back of the head, then run around to the other side trying to go unnoticed.

    “”To me, he’s got a great balance, and his teammates absolutely love him,”” Pennell said. “”I think he’s one of the guys they like messing with. He just seems to be a friend to everyone on the team.””

    Not even the coaches cut him slack. Assistant coach Reggie Geary jokingly tells Fogg the freshman isn’t as good as Geary, a former Wildcat.

    During a practice last week, Fogg worked with Geary at a side hoop in McKale Center. The 35-year-old coach crossed-up Fogg and made it to the basket for an uncontested layup.

    “”He beat me by one,”” Fogg said. “”He’s got old-man tricks. Four-five last time. He can’t beat me up to 11, though.””

    Pennell said Fogg handles the criticism from the coaching staff -ÿwhether in a playful or serious tone – very well.

    “”I think he knows that none of us criticize these guys in a mean-spirited way,”” Pennell said. “”I’ve never heard anyone on staff attack anyone’s character.””

    Not only is Fogg a starter for a school traditionally rich in guard play, but he started following the ways of great players before even becoming a Wildcat. After his senior season at Brea Olinda (Calif.) High School, he became part of the Belmont Shore AAU team, allowing him to get noticed more at the collegiate level.

    Ironically, that’s the AAU team Brandon Jennings played for in 2007 when he and current USC guard DeMar DeRozan led the team to the final game of the Arizona Cactus Classic in McKale Center.

    But unlike Jennings, Fogg was first noticed for his defensive play.

    “”When you can play ‘D’ on our team, you’re going to play,”” Wise said. “”He stepped that up and he got the starting job.””

    Fogg sticks out off the court, too. Though he is quiet, his sense of humor makes him a favorite with the media.

    When asked if he was trying to grow a beard like Budinger’s, Fogg said he had been trying to grow one for 19 years.

    Right before their two-day Christmas break, a reporter asked Jamelle Horne, Hill and Fogg what their plans were.

    Hill simply answered, “”Food.”” Horne said he was going to watch NBA games on TV. Then Fogg rambled on about meeting his folks at the airport, giving them hugs and kisses, getting a bite to eat -ÿthen Horne put his hand over the freshman’s mouth.

    Fogg didn’t mind the censorship. He simply smiled and shrugged.

    He’s one of the unsung heroes for Arizona this year, and even if his friends and teammates won’t let him know it without teasing him, he makes sure they know he appreciates the tough love.

    His responses to the playful text messages say so: “”Thanks.””

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