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Mount Vernon/Plankinton's Emilee Fox provides leadership, unselfish play

“She’s not out there for the points. She’s playing defense, she’s hustling after loose balls, getting rebounds, getting steals," MVP coach Preston Kristensen said.

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Mount Vernon/Plankinton's Emilee Fox (20) puts up a shot against Kimball/White Lake on Jan. 22 in Plankinton. (Ryan Deal / Republic)

MOUNT VERNON -- Fittingly, Emilee Fox’s favorite aspect of basketball is the rest of her team.

As defenses hounded her as a middle schooler, showing different defensive schemes every night, Fox loved throwing a pass to an open teammate and watching them make a 3-pointer. More than the points she’s scored or her own 3-point acumen, the Mount Vernon/Plankinton freshman likes how she’s surrounded by a team.

“I’m not all by myself out there. I have four other girls that can really help me out,” she said. “It’s so fun when you can pass out to a teammate and they make a 3. You can celebrate together.”
As the star of the Titans, Fox has the mindset of a role player, with the desire to make everyone around her better. Sometimes it’s by shooting lights out, but oftentimes it’s displaying precision passing, extraordinary handles and putting her body on the line defensively.

Midway through an 8-3 freshman season, Fox is used to being one of the youngest players on the floor.

In second grade, she played against fourth graders, so when she became the water girl in sixth grade, coach Preston Kristensen saw her potential as a ball-handler and shooter. By the time she was a seventh grader, she provided a calming presence on the court, rather than a deer-in-the-headlights look.

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“The biggest thing she does for us is her leadership is very evident,” Kristensen said. “Her being on the court calms us down and gives us a sense of direction. She does everything for our team.”

Even as defenses face-guarded her and threw box-and-one looks since she started playing on varsity as a seventh grader, the 5-foot-8 guard consistently flirts with triple-double numbers. The way she handled herself amidst the pressure quickly showed Kristensen she had the “it” factor.

Her 47.7 3-point shooting allows her to space the floor, but her love for one-on-one games against her younger brother, Brady, taught her how to get to the rim. But to pigeon-hole her into solely a scorer would undermine the rest of her game that she tirelessly works at. Fox averages 18.5 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 3.9 steals per game.

“I think all of that shows what type of player she is,” Kristensen said. “She’s not out there for the points. She’s playing defense, she’s hustling after loose balls, getting rebounds, getting steals.”

The repetition on MVP’s shooting machine and countless ball-handling drills has helped her, as she said even “10 minutes a day can really help you out a lot.” The one-on-one games taught her how to stay in front of a shifty player, too.

Last season, it turned her into a record-breaking guard who earned Class A all-state second team honors. She set single-season MVP records for points, steals and made 3-pointers, while already owning the career marks for steals and 3s.

Fox doesn’t have a countdown in her head, though, of how many points she needs to score to top her 384 last year. Her 826 career points have come in the flow of the game. She worries about the numbers after the season, which she hopes eventually comes following a state tournament berth.

“After every season, our coach will tell us who broke what records, and that’s when I realize it,” Fox said. “But through the season, I don’t really pay attention to that kind of stuff. I just try to win games.”

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Fox holds offers from South Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota. She called them “a blessing” but also added, “There’s still work to be done.”

That work ethic has driven her to this point, and even as a standout freshman, Kristensen envisions another level to her game in the next 3 1/2 years. He still believes she can improve offensively by taking over the game, even more than she does now.

He knows she’ll put in the work to get there.

“When you love it that much, it kind of comes easier,” Fox said. “And you want to do it everyday.”

Mount Vernon/Plankinton travels to Winner on Friday.

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