Love and basketball with De’Aaron and Recee Fox
The Sacramento Kings guard and the ex-college hoops star reveal their love story
SACRAMENTO – For Sacramento Kings star De’Aaron Fox and his newlywed wife, Recee, it is truly love and basketball.
“After games, I definitely pick and choose what to say to him,” Recee said. “If he has a bad game, a lot of the times my thing is, ‘Did you stay healthy? Are you happy?’ That’s what I care about. Obviously, he’s not going to be happy that he lost, but De’Aaron as a human being first is what I care about. This basketball stuff will be good for 12 years, and then it’s going to be our relationship that we have to focus on after.”
Said Fox: “I trust her opinion. She worked in player development in the NBA.”
Fox is hoping to lead the resurgent Kings back to the playoffs for the first time in 17 years and become a first-time NBA All-Star this season. Fox’s wife was also an outstanding basketball player in her own right. Formerly Recee Caldwell, she was a former McDonald’s All-American like her husband; played college basketball for UCLA, Texas Tech, and Cal-Berkeley before going to training camp with the WNBA Seattle Storm; and was a player development intern for the Washington Wizards and Golden State Warriors.
The Foxes have another basketball player on the way, as they are expecting their first child together in February.
“I also have the greatest respect and admiration for what Recee and De’Aaron do off the court,” Kings owner Vivek Ranadive said. “To think back to when I first met him as a 19-year-old kid to where he is now, a 25-year-old married man with a child on the way. It’s pretty remarkable.”
Southern Cal women’s basketball coach Lindsay Gottlieb, who coached Recee at Cal, said: “Who knew she would find her husband during that one year with us in Berkeley. I love De’Aaron as well. Great dude. I’m so happy for them.”
De’Aaron Fox has been a standout player since the Kings selected him with the fifth overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft. The lightning quick guard has averaged 19.5 points, 6.2 assists and 3.6 rebounds in roughly 5½ seasons. Under first-year Kings head coach Mike Brown, Fox is making his strongest NBA All-Star bid, averaging 23.9 points, 5.9 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game. Aiding Fox’s hopes to become a first-time All-Star is the Kings’ 20-17 record.
The Kings have a talented roster that includes two-time NBA All-Star Domantas Sabonis, and Rookie of the Month for December Keegan Murray. But when it comes to the king of the Kings, there is no question it is Fox.
“De’Aaron is having an All-Star caliber year and to see his continued growth, both on and off the court, is exciting and special,” Ranadive said. “He is a fearless athlete and clutch shooter who gives 110% every single game. He’s really embraced his leadership role this season, stepping up to close out big games while also motivating his teammates to get the best out of them. We all love to watch his speed, skill, and athleticism on the court.”
Said Brown: “De’Aaron is an All-Star. I hope the coaches, media and the fans do what’s right and get him in the game. The exciting part about ‘Foxy’ is he is just scratching the surface to truly who he is going to end up being in this league. The skill set is off the charts. His feel is off the charts. His speed is unbelievable. And his ability to get his own shots at his size is second to none.”
Before she was Recee Fox, Recee Caldwell was a feared point guard on the prep and college level and had a shot at a WNBA dream.
She aspired to be in the WNBA after her father and basketball coach Ray Caldwell took her to see the Los Angeles Sparks when she was 9 years old. After making it to the 2012 Texas Basketball Coaches All-State Team as a sophomore, Recee stopped playing high school basketball while attending Lady Bird Johnson High School in San Antonio during her junior year and was homeschooled. Recee told ESPN in 2014 that she continued conditioning with “smart workouts” that include yoga four times a week and swimming for less wear and tear on her body, and she studied video of star NBA guards Stephen Curry and Deron Williams. She continued to play basketball for her father’s AAU team San Antonio’s Finest. She also was a two-time gold medalist with USA women’s basketball with the under-16 and under-18 teams.
Recee was ranked as the No. 9 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Top 100 for the 2014 class. She chose then-rebuilding UCLA over perennial women’s basketball powers Connecticut and Duke. She was also named a 2014 McDonald’s All-American two years before her future husband earned the same honor on the boys’ side.
“I know I was in God’s hands, and I knew I would prosper if I put prayer on it and just worked toward my goal,” Recee Fox told ESPN in 2014 about her decision to stop playing high school basketball. “I was never really nervous about it. I know I took a lot of flak for it, but in the long run it was a blessing.”
Fox averaged 6.9 points for UCLA as a true freshman during the 2014-15 season before returning to Texas to play for Texas Tech where her father joined the coaching staff. The 2017 All-Big 12 Conference selection averaged 14.5 points and 4.1 assists in a team-best 34.1 minutes per game for the Red Raiders during the 2016-17 season. She averaged 10.7 points and 6.0 assists as a junior in 13 games during the 2017-18 season before suffering season-ending labrum and rotator cuff injuries. The 2018 Academic All-Big 12 second-team selection graduated from Texas Tech in the spring of 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in business.
With a season of eligibility remaining, Recee became the first graduate transfer in Cal women’s basketball history and enrolled in the School of Public Health. Before going to Berkeley, she interned in player development with the Washington Wizards for the 2018 NBA draft and during the 2018 NBA Summer League. During that summer league, she was standing near the valet of the then-Mandarin Oriental Hotel (now the Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas) waiting to say hello to her friend Harry Giles, then a Kings big man. Meanwhile, De’Aaron Fox walked by and the two caught eyes but neither Texas native said a word.
“’De’ walked by, and growing up in Texas, usually hoopers know each other. But I’m two classes above him,” Recee, 26, said. “Obviously, I’ve watched De’Aaron for a long time… I figured he knew me. He didn’t know me, so he just walks by me.”
Said De’Aaron, 25, with a smile: “I didn’t know the girls two classes up.”
Moments later, Recee shot her shot virtually by sending a direct message on Instagram to Fox.
“She DM’d me saying, ‘Oh, so you’re not going to say anything?…’ So apparently, I walked past her at the hotel, and I didn’t remember. I didn’t notice. And I’m in the room. I’m like, ‘What are you talking about? I don’t even remember seeing a girl,’ ” Fox said.
Recee says she ended up coming back to the Mandarin Oriental where “at a distance” she met De’Aaron in the lobby. They spoke for four hours. She was supposed to leave back to Cal the next day for workouts but left late to spend more time with him. After she returned to Berkeley, she said they FaceTimed for “eight hours.”
The “friendly” communication continued, and visits took place as they were roughly a 75-minute drive from each other between Berkeley and Sacramento.
“It was easy for us to talk to each other,” De’Aaron said.
Said Recee Fox: “The whole first year, we were friendly.”
Recee said she knew De’Aaron was truly serious about her when he attended her final college basketball game.
Recee averaged 10 points and 4.6 assists while nailing 31 3-pointers while starting in 33 games as a graduate senior for Cal during the 2018-19 season. She also dished a school-record 12 assists in a first-round 2019 NCAA tournament victory over North Carolina — the most in any NCAA tournament game in two years.
But the Golden Bears were routed 102-63 against eventual NCAA champion Baylor in Waco, Texas, in the second round. De’Aaron rented a car in Dallas and drove two hours for the game the day before the Kings played on the road against the Dallas Mavericks. She didn’t disappoint as she had 12 points, two 3-pointers, and five assists in 38 minutes against Baylor and finished her college basketball career with over 1,000 points and 400 assists.
And her relationship with De’Aaron changed after that last game.
“He rented a car to see me play in my last college game. I was like, ‘Oh, he obviously must like me,’ ” Recee said. “It was a lot of effort. I will always say that De’Aaron has put a lot of effort into us.”
Said De’Aaron: “This was the year Baylor was [going to] the championship. I was like, ‘You’re not winning this game.’
Said Recee: “We got blasted by 40, but I played well though.”
Prior to agreeing to go to Cal, Recee asked Gottlieb if she could try to get her an internship with the Warriors because she was interested in a career in coach. After lengthy correspondence with the Warriors front office, Recee was invited to the team’s practice. She quickly impressed and landed an internship for the 2018-19 season.
“She would make an amazing coach,” Gottlieb said.
During the 2018-19 season, Recee played for Cal, got her master’s degree, was an intern for the Warriors at their San Francisco-based practice facility in the morning and cut scouting film at the NBA franchise at night. She was supervised by then-Warriors player development coach Luke Loucks. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr and former center DeMarcus Cousins praised her in the San Francisco Chronicle during that time for her work ethic and hoops knowledge. She worked with players on the floor, including pick-and-roll situations with Cousins, and broke down film of NBA draft prospects.
“My job was to be around, and you’re literally just shagging balls for the players,” Recee said. “They saw that I could actually play. So now I become, let’s say, Klay’s [Thompson’s] point guard in workouts when he comes off a pin down, or I’m setting the screen for someone. And so now I’m able to be there and actively learn from [Loucks]. And what is he fixing? What drills is he putting the players into? And I would also report to him like, ‘Hey, can’t come today. We leave for Colorado tomorrow for a game.’ We became really close.”
Recee wasn’t drafted by an WNBA team in 2019, but she was invited to the Seattle Storm’s training camp. Unfortunately, two weeks before the Storm’s training camp, the 5-foot-9 guard said she suffered a wrist fracture in a freak accident after she got her hand stuck on the side of a gate key code device at De’Aaron’s home while her car accidentally went in reverse. The only good news was it was her non-shooting hand.
“I go to the emergency room. They’re like, ‘You broke your wrist. We need to put you in a cast,’ ” Recee said. “I said, ‘I can’t do a cast. I cannot. I have training camp in two weeks. We just need to tape the s— up. I need to continue training.’ ”
With her WNBA dream in reach, Recee kept the injury from the Storm and played with it. The Storm’s rookie point guard showed promise by earning 11 points and four assists in an exhibition game on May 15, 2019. But seven days later the Storm waived her.
“Whenever you go through a physical, they scan every part of your body,” Recee said. “Well, I told them I had tendonitis, because I do. I have it in my wrist and my elbow from shooting so much. Well, [the doctor] never scanned my left wrist because he was like, ‘Oh, you had tendonitis. You’re fine.’ So, whenever we’re lifting, and they’re like, ‘Why can’t you do a plank?’ I couldn’t put weight on it. So, during the whole time, I’m wrapping it up with tape, playing with one hand…
“But yeah, I had 15 points in a [preseason] game. I proved I belonged.”
Afterward, Recee said De’Aaron told her to “come home” to Sacramento. She moved in with him for a couple months before joining the University of Texas-Austin women’s basketball team as their video coordinator. The budding couple was suddenly long distance.
“It kind of put us at a crossroads as like, ‘Okay, he’s serious about me. Am I going to be able to sacrifice what I want to do to be with him?’ ” Recee said.
The coronavirus pandemic shut down the NBA on March 11, 2020, and eventually college basketball and the entire world. Texas announced that women’s head basketball coach Karen Austin was fired on April 3, 2020. Recee lost her job, departed from Texas, quarantined and moved in with De’Aaron in the midst of the pandemic. She accepted his marriage proposal on Manhattan Beach on Sept. 10, 2020. De’Aaron and Recee set a marriage date for Aug. 6, 2022, in Malibu, Calif.
“It was good timing of how everything happened. So ended up moving in with him, and then COVID happened, so we were just chilling…,” Recee said. “He took me ring shopping a couple days after I moved in.”
Four months before the wedding, Recee tore her Achilles tendon playing 1-on-1 with De’Aaron’s best friend and former University of Ozarks guard Reno Depor while De’Aaron was working out at San Diego State. After getting Recee’s news, Kings COO Matina Kolokotronis got De’Aaron in touch with Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs, a San Diego-based member of the Kings’ investor group. Jacobs found a surgeon in San Diego to give Recee surgery two days after the injury.
“I was lifting the next week because I’m trying to be wedding ready,” Recee said. “I couldn’t do any cardio. I’m a cardio girl. So, I’m like, how? And I like to eat. It is what it is. How am I going to get into this dress for wedding? Yeah, it was terrible. I was kind of hobbling down wedding night. My foot was huge.”
The Fox wedding guest list included several current and NBA players and coaches like Brown, Giles, Loucks; NBA All-Stars Jayson Tatum, Trae Young, and Bam Adebayo; Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges, WNBA champion Aja Wilson, Utah Jazz forward Jarred Vanderbilt, Los Angeles Sparks guard Jordan Canida and Atlanta Dream forward Monique Billings. The bride surprised the groom with a Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers food truck. After considering Chance the Rapper and Waka Flocka Flame, the couple hired rapper T-Pain as they believed he would be a hit to guests of all ages.
“Everybody was telling us how great it was, and we’re like, ‘We didn’t get to enjoy most of it,’ ” De’Aaron said.
Said Recee: “They say, ‘You put on the wedding for everybody else.”
Brown departed from the 2022 NBA champion Warriors as associate head coach to become head coach of the Kings on May 9. After hearing that Brown hired Loucks as an assistant coach, Recee called her old mentor to ask if he could work out De’Aaron. Loucks worked out De’Aaron in San Diego and in Italy during their honeymoon while Kings trainers and strength coaches also made appearances. Loucks is now the main assistant coach who works daily with De’Aaron. Recee credits Brown and Loucks for their transparency that works well with her husband on and off the floor.
“That’s how our relationship is, wouldn’t you say?” Recee asked her husband. “It’s like, if I messed up or he’s doing something, I don’t like the way he did that today, let’s change it right then and there so it doesn’t linger. So, Mike is the same way. You saw with his quick timeouts. Mike will call a timeout within a minute of the game if he doesn’t like what he’s seen. He’s like, ‘Fix it now so it doesn’t linger later.’ And that’s what [my husband] has taken, and that’s what he responds the best.
“Don’t let it linger. Just stop it right then and there, and he’ll fix it because he wants to do the right thing. He wants to do what makes the team win. So, it’s accountability and someone who’s going to hold you accountable. Mike’s been great, and Luke Loucks is there.”
Life is good for De’Aaron Fox. He is now married, could be a first-time NBA All-Star, is building a family home in his hometown of Houston and is making $28.1 million in the first year of a five-year, $163 million contract. He is committed to the Kings, never asked for a trade during lean seasons and yearns to turn the franchise around. What Fox wants more than anything now is to get the Kings back to the postseason.
The Kings have not played in a playoff game since May 6, 2006, when Fox was eight years old. Fox is also respectfully tired of hearing from Sacramento fans that they feel the Kings got cheated during the 2002 Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. Fox said he wants to make the playoffs mostly for Ranadive, as he believes the owner is not getting his “just due” for investing into the franchise, what he has done for the city of Sacramento by building a new arena, revitalizing downtown, and showing support by sitting courtside and traveling on road trips.
“I was drafted here. I see how badly people want to win,” De’Aaron said. “And then especially with this new coaching staff, they want to win. Everyone’s come from a different place, which is why I don’t feel the burden on this team as far as the 17-year playoff drought.
“But just being a part of it for the last five, six years, seeing how people react when you’re actually winning a bit and just wanting to turn that thing around. This place, this is one of the best arenas in the world. I love the people, the city.”
What also will draw the newlyweds closer to Sacramento is their son, who is due to be born in the city in February.
De’Aaron has a five-year-old son, Kai, from a previous relationship. Recee is expected to give birth to the newlyweds’ first child around the time of the NBA All-Star weekend. The couple has decided to name the baby boy Reign.
“We’re extremely excited. He’s expected February 22. So that would be 2-22-23,” De’Aaron said proudly.