Freshman guard Fox finding way as lone player in class

Emily Fox is the only freshman player on the court this year for Minnesota.

Emily Wickstrom

The last time Minnesota’s women’s basketball team had a one-person class, it ended well.

In Janel McCarville’s four years, she led the Gophers to one Final Four and three Sweet 16 appearances.

Now the Minnesota program is hoping for the same success with guard Emily Fox, who wears McCarville’s old number four and is the team’s lone freshman.

Fox wasn’t supposed to be the only freshman on the court this season.

But when the other members of her recruiting class, Ashley Ellis-Milan and Katie Ohm, went down with knee and foot injuries, respectively, Fox was forced to adjust to college basketball by herself.

“I don’t really have anyone to compare myself with,” Fox said. “With (the other freshmen), I can see if I’m doing good or bad, but I feel like I’m expected to be caught up with everyone.”

One luxury Fox has is a wealth of experienced guards in front of her to soak up information from.

Although she said she looks up to all of the seniors, Shannon Schonrock has been the most helpful.

“Schonrock has been a great mentor to me,” Fox said. “I feel like we’ve connected and she definitely brings experience.”

Even though Minnesota has six upperclassmen guards, coach Pam Borton has found a way to get Fox on the court in big games this season.

In the Gopher’s 71-58 upset victory over Michigan State on Jan. 15, Fox was one of the bench players who stepped up to help carry the team, playing 22 minutes and scoring 13 points.

Of Minnesota’s win over Virginia on Nov. 26 in the Virgin Islands, Borton said: “Without her on the floor, I don’t see how we would have won that game.”

The likely reason Fox hasn’t received more minutes is because of her adjustment to the Gopher’s emphasis on defense.

“You have to be able to play defense to play on the floor,” sophomore guard Brittney Davis said. “I think it’s getting easier for her day by day.”

Borton also wants Fox to make some changes on the offensive end.

Fox’s stellar passing skills are her primary strength and have earned cheers from the Williams Arena crowd, but at times, Borton said she wants Fox to pass less.

“When Emmy gets timid on the floor offensively, we’re not a better team,” Borton said.

Fox said her shoot-second mentality came from playing in high school in Colorado with best friend Abby Waner, Duke’s standout freshman and the National High School player of the year.

“I’ve always been pass-first because of Abby,” Fox said. “I always get yelled at in practice for not looking to score so I’m starting to do that… But it’s definitely different for me.”

Fox knows she’ll be looked on to carry more of the load, as both a scorer and a point guard next season when Schonrock, April Calhoun and Shannon Bolden graduate.

Some members of the media have mentioned her as a potential Big Ten Player of the Year candidate down the road.

But for now, she’s trying to ignore those comments and focus on improving.

“It’s definitely a compliment, but I don’t want to let it get to my head,” Fox said. “I know I have a long way to go and a lot of work to do.”