Not many people saw so much success coming so quickly for Markelle Fultz. The talented combo guard and potential 2017 top-10 pick was playing JV basketball just two years ago after failing to make DeMatha’s varsity team as a sophomore.
But Fultz spent the following summer putting in the work to be successful, and conveniently sprouted to all of 6-foot-5 before his junior year. It made him a mismatch at point guard where he had enough size to play and defend off the ball. His versatility and budding offensive game turned him from a no-name prospect into a star as a junior:
Fultz’s rise was unconventional, but it earned him All-American and five-star status among his peers. He soon received scholarships from prestigious programs like Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas and Arizona, among others. Instead, Fultz committed to Washington, citing both the coaching staff and the challenge of bringing the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament as reasons why he spurned other bigger programs, per Chris Reichert of UpsideMotor.com:
“The coaching staff is great. Coach Romar made me feel like I was his son. When I came to visit I saw all the players got along. UW is underrated, and I feel like I’m a little underrated, so I wanted to show people you don’t need to attend a big school to reach your dreams. I want to shock the world.”
Fultz should have the opportunity to be a one-and-done at Washington and head to the league like his counterparts before him. Coach Lorenzo Romar has developed NBA players despite mediocre on-the-court results, with Tony Wroten, Terrence Ross, Dejounte Murray and Marquese Chriss all leaving early for the Association.
Fultz has a chance to make his impact felt across the country with his two-way potential, offensive repertoire and playmaking ability. His all-around ability was on full display this summer when he earned MVP of the five-game FIBA U-18 Americas tournament, averaging 13.8 points, 5.2 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 3.2 steals:
Fultz shot an efficient 54.7 percent from the field, 33.3 percent from distance (6-of-18) while making all five free throws. It’s safe to say Romar will be better off putting the ball in his hands from the start and just getting out of the way. From Percy Allen of the Seattle Times:
“Markelle is a dynamic guard,” UW coach Romar said in November after Fultz signed. “There’s not anything he can’t do on the basketball floor. He can go up and jump over the top of you and dunk it. He can dunk on a 6-10, 6-11 guy. He can really pass the ball. He’s gotten now to where he can shoot the ball really well.”
Not only does he have a complete offensive game, but Fultz uses his solid 6”8’ wingspan and above-average athleticism to be disruptive in the passing lanes and as a rim protector. His two-way potential is where Fultz separates himself from other big, scoring point guards like D’Angelo Russell, and Romar expects him to fit in really well defensively thanks to his length and ability to pressure the ball:
Fultz has high aspirations for his time pending time in Washington and told Reichert he knows his future is not guaranteed. With top 2017 recruit Michael Porter already committed to Washington, who knows if Fultz stays for an additional season (or two) of college basketball?
“My goal is to have a great college career. My goal right now is to stay here four years. I’m not only worried about basketball,” Fultz said.
“I want to be an accountant so I’m working on getting that set up for myself and I’m focused on college right now. The NBA will be there, and if the time is right, then I’ll have a decision to make, but I’m taking it one day at a time; nothing is definite at this point.”
Fultz is level-headed in his approach (another difference from Russell), and that bodes well for a bright future. There isn’t a lot to nitpick with Fultz as a prospect as he prepares for his inaugural collegiate season; showing more consistency from range will allow him to be a threat at all times on the court.
But Fultz’s feel for the game, scoring ability and size all scream top-five pick in 2017. Nobody would have thought that was remotely possible just two years ago.