Markelle Fultz erupted in the 2014 summer, having played on the junior varsity squad at DeMatha Catholic the prior season. Previously a national unknown, the slender guard enjoyed a fantastic evaluation period and obtained scholarship offers from Washington, DePaul, Xavier, Miami, Cincinnati, Maryland and others.
Fultz proceeded to compile stellar numbers during the 2014-15 season. The lanky guard captured the player of the year award in the prestigious WCAC, and he added further offers from Georgetown, NC State, Memphis and others.
This past spring, as a rising senior, Fultz hit the travel circuit with the D.C. Blue Devils determined to solidify his place among the national elite.
He scored 18 points per game on the Under Armour circuit, leading the Blue Devils by a vast margin and propelling them to a winning record in a highly competitive league. He also led the team in assists and steals, and he even finished second in rebounding.
Fultz emerged from the summer as a near-certain McDonald’s All-American and contender for a top-10 national ranking.
In terms of his recruitment, earlier this month he embarked upon three official visits: Louisville, Arizona and Washington. His process appeared to be winding down, and most everyone expected him to choose from among that trio of schools.
He announced at the Elite24 in favor of Lorenzo Romar’s Huskies, giving the program a signature recruit from a class that’s exceptionally strong at the top.
Fultz certainly looks the part. He has broad shoulders, long arms and a slinky manner simply moving around the court.
Of course, he also plays the part. He’s a tremendous athlete who creates for himself consistently in the halfcourt game, possessing a quickness and agility advantage over nearly anyone he faces.
You’ll read plenty of descriptions about his athleticism, but it’s one very specific attribute that stands out most. Fultz enjoys tremendous elasticity in his hips, enabling him to shift and contort his body through and around defenses. He makes explosive moves but is able to remain under control for that reason, and he’s an excellent finisher.
His ability to free himself using high ball screens could formulate the basis of his game at the professional level. He can create and make shots that would be horribly off-balance for his peers, once again owing to his flexibility and ability to position his hips so that his shooting mechanics are sound even on the most heavily contested attempts.
We presently categorize him as a combo guard with a shooting guard orientation, but that could change very soon. The belief here is that he’s likely to spend meaningful time off the ball in Seattle, perhaps transitioning full-time to the point in the NBA.
Beyond that, he plays with classical D.C. toughness as a rebounder and defender, and thus he should excel in Washington’s aggressive style. The Huskies haven’t played at as fast a tempo the past few seasons, but should they seek a reversion to prior form, Fultz certainly can make an impact.
Fultz needs to upgrade his efficiency. In fairness, he didn’t have as much scoring help with the Blue Devils as he may have liked — and thus he was compelled to force some very difficult shots — but even so, there’s ample space for improvement.
His shot form looks okay, yet he converted only 28 percent of his three-point attempts through his 12 games on the UA circuit. He also averaged more than four triples per game, dragging down his overall shooting to 41 percent.
Perhaps more concerning, he knocked in just 61 percent from the free throw line. He’s likely to spend significant time at the line both in college and beyond, so improving his mark there will be key.
Fultz has vaulted the rankings for easily understandable reasons: He’s one of the country’s best backcourt scorers, with an ideal, long-term friendly body type and ample skill.
His size and athleticism also should enable him to play taller than his height and defend wings and even some point guards, thanks to his length.
At Washington, he’ll enjoy the freedom to play both guard positions and showcase his myriad talents for professional scouts. We don’t anticipate that he’ll grow deep roots at U-W for that reason, as the NBA draft could beckon following his freshman campaign.
But however long he’s on campus, Fultz could stand out as one of the nation’s best scorers and most versatile all-around competitors.