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Near the end of his career, we can see clearly now about Kyle Fogg

Kyle Fogg

Kyle Fogg embraces coach Sean Miller during Senior Day ceremonies following Saturday's game against UCLA. Photo by Chris Morrison-US PRESSWIRE

Kyle Fogg didn’t arrive with “All-American” behind his name. He doesn’t shoot like Salim, jump like Hassan, amaze like Gilbert, score like Khalid.

But we have been wrong just about every time we have underestimated Kyle Fogg.

When the Arizona Wildcats signed this late-blooming high school guard in the spring of 2008, it wasn’t seen as a recruiting coup as much as a sign of how the program was struggling after a year of turmoil.

Lute Olson had just returned from a season sabbatical because of illness. He had revamped his coaching staff and needed a few fresh bodies for the roster. Yeah. That’s it. Kyle Fogg, a fresh body. Best available.

It was written locally at the time that, “In the last 20 years, Arizona wouldn’t give a player like Kyle Fogg the time of day.”

It wasn’t an inaccurate statement.

But, as I say, we have been wrong just about every time we have underestimated Kyle Fogg.

* * *

There were 10 minutes and nine seconds left in Fogg’s career at McKale Center.

UCLA had just scored Saturday to take its biggest lead of the game, 45-39. Fogg had four points at the time. It was his final home game. Lose at McKale on Senior Day? Not if Fogg had anything to do with it.

Kyle Fogg

Kyle Fogg played in his 134th game at Arizona on Saturday. Photo by Chris Morrison-US PRESSWIRE

“At that moment,” said coach Sean Miller, “we could have gone in either direction.”

After a 30-second timeout, Fogg came off a screen at the top of the key. He drilled a 3-point shot … and, just like that, Arizona had navigated the crossroads and was back in the right direction.

“To me, it was that poise, that play, that all of a sudden got the game back to how it had been,” Miller said. “I think it says a lot about Kyle and a lot about our team and the growth that we experienced here.”

Fogg fueled the Wildcats in the final 10 minutes, scoring 16 points in that span. He had 13 points in the final 6:01. He hit another key 3-pointer, this one with 52.6 seconds left for a 63-57 lead.

“We started to get a little dead out there and I wanted to try to give our guys some energy on both ends of the floor,” Fogg said of the final 10 minutes.

“I think our guys were setting a couple of great screens and I was able to get some easy baskets. I think guys feed off my energy, and we picked it up a notch.”

Fogg didn’t have the best final 40 seconds — he missed 2 of 4 free throws and had a turnover — but he had done enough offensively and defensively to put the Wildcats in good position to win the game, which it did 65-63.

Defense? He hounded UCLA’s leading scorer, Lazeric Jones, into a 1-of-12 shooting performance. Jones, who averaged more than 14 points per game, finished with a mere two.

“Kyle Fogg’s defensive effort on Lazeric Jones can’t be lost in this game,” Miller said.

“Kyle has improved as a defensive player as much as any player I’ve ever coached. His wherewithal, his intelligence, his quickness and intensity … he really deserves to be on any all-defensive team.

“From a perimeter perspective, he’s done it every game that we’ve played. Minus just a few blips on the screen, he’s been sensational on defense. When a kid plays that hard on defense and does what he did on offense, he clearly was the best player in the game today.”

The Bruins noticed, too.

“Like I’ve said before, when he goes, they go,” said UCLA guard Jerime Anderson.

“He really gained momentum, especially in the second half. He started making shots and free throws, and you could tell the energy was increasing in the team. He’s a good player; always has been.”

* * *

We have seen a lot of Kyle Fogg.

He has played in 134 games, two away from the school record held by Jason Gardner.

He has started 114 games, seventh in Arizona history.

He has played 3,644 minutes, ninth in school history.

He has made 183 3-pointers, eighth on the UA career chart.

Miller arrived at Arizona after Fogg’s freshman year, in which the guard averaged 6.1 points and started 27 games on the Russ Pennell-coached team that made a surprise run to the Sweet 16.

What did Miller think he had in Fogg?

“A player eager to learn and improve,” Miller said. “That’s what makes him such a special kid, a special player. He has invested a lot of himself.”

It’s not as if Fogg was a nobody coming out of Brea Olinda (Calif.) High School — he held scholarship offers from UNLV and Providence, among others — but it’s that investment into his game that has made him such a valuable Wildcat.

His workouts last summer set the bar for everyone who comes after him. He took 39,132 jumpers, making 26,414 (67.5 percent) in an effort to improve his long-range accuracy.

He has.

Fogg, a 38.3 percent career shooter from 3-point range in his first three years, is at 44.3 percent this season.

“When you look at what he did this summer, I haven’t been around too many kids who gave that much of themselves to have a great senior year,” Miller said.

He’s still investing.

With a stronger dedication than ever on rebounding, Fogg has had the only two double-doubles of his career in the past four games. He had never had more than eight rebounds in a game until two weeks ago. Now, he has had at least nine in four consecutive games.

Think of it this way: He has 40 rebounds in his past 143 minutes. He had 70 rebounds in 968 minutes last season.

Yeah, that’s just a little improvement.

“As high a character kid as I’ve ever been around,” Miller said. “All about winning. Total team player.”

He’s not an All-American, not a future first-round pick.

But maybe by now we’re done underestimating Kyle Fogg.

Kyle Fogg Lute Olson

Kyle Fogg meets former Arizona coach Lute Olson after Senior Day ceremonies at McKale Center. That's Olson's wife, Kelly, on the left. Photo by Chris Morrison-US PRESSWIRE

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