O’Brien: Dwight’s Justin Fox, the small-town star

Dwight's Justin Fox (21) checks the clock after hitting a jumper against Reed-Custer, January 3, 2017. Allen Cunningham / for The Sun-Times.

There are hundreds of high-scoring basketball players across the area. Nearly every team has a player averaging 15 points or more. It can be very difficult to stand out in the crowd.

That goes double for a player in Dwight, a village with 4,000 residents that is 77 miles southwest of Chicago. So the hype surrounding Dwight senior Justin Fox grew slowly.

Fox, a 6-5 point guard, scored 34 points in Dwight’s first game. He scored 31 in the second game, then 41 points and then 38. Opening the season with four consecutive games of more than 30 points drew the notice of fans on social media. Since then, Fox has nearly kept up the 30-point pace. He’s currently averaging 29.3 points.

Trojans coach Eric Long didn’t see this coming.

“He ran the team and got the ball into the post last year,” Long said. “Now we don’t have the post players and we opened the floor. If I would have known he was going to be this good with the floor spread I might have done it last year.”

Fox said there isn’t any special secret to his improvement, that it just came from hard work.

“I joined a new AAU team this summer, Mercury Elite,” Fox said. “We went to some big tournaments and seeing that level of play I knew I either had to step up my game and get better or stay average. I don’t like being average. I pushed myself during the offseason. I knew where I had to be and where I could be.”

Fox scored 24 points and grabbed 22 rebounds in a 77-48 win against Reed-Custer on Tuesday in Braidwood. He drove to the basket for most of his points.

“He might have the most three-pointers of anyone in the Kankakee area, but when the defense is out this much you have to go by them,” Long said. “That’s what makes him such a tough player.”

It’s rare to see a player at the high school level average nearly 30 points and not display even a slight hint of selfishness.

“When we played Seneca he had 18 points in the first quarter,” Long said. “Then they started coming at him so he just found his teammates. He played the game that was there, that’s the beautiful thing about him. He does all this without being a showboat, or a ball hog. Sometimes I want him to shoot more. He’s the best percentage shooter on the team.”

High-scoring stars bring out the fans and that’s exactly what is happening in Dwight this winter.

“We are getting a lot of people coming out just to watch him,” Long said. “It’s hard for an 18-year-old kid when people are coming from miles around to see you play. He scored 24 tonight and might not feel like he played well.”

Fox has scholarship offers from two NAIA schools and he recently received a preferred walk-on offer from Illinois State.

“I’m hoping I can get some DI looks or some more D2 looks,” Fox said. “It’s hard being a small-town kid but I’m pushing and hopefully I can get there.

“I just want to play at the highest level possible, it has always been a dream of mine. I just want to go off and play college basketball. As a kid from Dwight I know that would mean a lot to show the younger kids from Dwight that they can do it too. That would be really special to me.”

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  • Coach Davis

    Yep Arie is a great young man… The first high school player my son wanted to see play all the time.. Elgin had a good team his jr year.. The kids a winner…

  • Coach LB

    Great article. Mr.Fox you should look at Barry university in Florida. I believe you would be a great fix there. My nephew aria Williams plays there from Elgin and is doing great there. He in his sr season and has a great chance of playing overseas. Barry is an outstanding university that has a great mix of academic and athletics . continue to keep putting in the work and you will be successful.

    • Coach LB

      Forgive me with the typo. I was trying to say a great fit there. And my nephew name is Arie Williams.

    • Michael O'Brien

      Really glad to hear that Arie found a good fit somewhere, I remember him well. Always enjoyed covering him.

      • Coach LB

        Thank you sir. We are really proud of him for being not just a great basketball player but even a better person. He was be graduating this year with a degree in computer science. Also keep up the good work Mr. O’Brien.

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