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Freshman Fogg stepping up his game

Fogg

Fogg

Kyle Fogg doesn’t know he’s funny. He probably also doesn’t know he’s turned into a pretty good, dependable player.

Well, maybe he does and he’s just being sly about it, kind of like how he delivers his one-liners.

And with two weeks left in the regular season, Fogg’s timing couldn’t be any better. He started to step up about the time Arizona got going on its recent seven-game winning streak.

“He’s got a lot of courage,” UA interim coach Russ Pennell said. “I don’t know if he doesn’t understand the magnitude of the game or understand that he’s (just) a freshman. I’m glad he doesn’t understand it.

“He’s willing to take a big shot or get a big steal or big rebound.”

Pennell said Fogg has done that from his first moments on the court early in the season. But yes, Fogg has had a meteoric rise from then to now.

“He keeps growing by leaps and bounds,” Pennell said. “He still has some mental lapses from time to time like many freshmen do, but I don’t know if you could ask more from Kyle Fogg this season.”

With many teams concentrating on UA’s Big Three – Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill and Nic Wise – Fogg has been able to come in under the radar. He, however, hasn’t gone unnoticed by Washington State coach Tony Bennett.

The Wildcats visit Washington State at 7 p.m. Thursday.

“Love him, tenacious,” Bennett said of Fogg. “Those are the kind of kids who are the unsung heroes. Winners. Tough. Unselfish. Those are the kids that make teams go.

“Yes, what Wise, Hill and Budinger have done is impressive, but Fogg has been key.”

Said Wise: “He’s a good player. Guys have been focusing on us three, so it gives him the opportunity to step up and knock down shots. And he is.”

Fogg says it’s about his teammates finding him open and him knocking down shots. He’s also worked countless hours on the shot.

And then there’s the defense. It’s been his staple all season. He’s even tried to play against former UA defensive standout Reggie Geary, an assistant coach with the Wildcats.

“He says I’m not as good,” Fogg said. “He beat me by one – he’s got those old-man tricks.”

That said, Fogg does believe he’s come a long way since October.

“I don’t think I was very good at the beginning of the season,” he said.

“It’s hard work. I’m getting better.”

Not long ago, he was asked if he inspired the others, including the much-heralded upperclassmen. He turned to Budinger with a straight face and asked, “Do I inspire you?”

Budinger laughed. So did the reporters.

It’s happened a couple of times: straight-faced, deadpan reaction.

Has he received praise from his friends about how well he’s been playing?

“They talk a lot of crap,” he said, laughing. “(They say): ‘You’re not that good, Fogg.’ I get those texts every day.”

His response to them? “Thanks,” he said, smiling.

Where does he get his humor, a self-deprecating, ho-hum style?

“I don’t know,” he said, not knowing how to answer. “I was born a funny guy, I guess.”

It’s all in the delivery.

“He’s a highly intelligent guy with a great demeanor,” Pennell said. “He takes basketball serious when he plays basketball, but it’s not who he is. It doesn’t define him. He has a life outside of basketball. He has a great balance. His teammates love him. He’s a friend to everyone on the team.”

Whether he inspires them or not.

———

UP NEXT

Arizona (18-9, 8-6) at Washington St. (14-13, 6-9)

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

TV: FSNA

Radio: 1290 AM, 107.5 FM

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