Sophomore forward Joe Fulce has gone through many trials and tribulations in his long journey to playing Division-I basketball. His road led through Plano (Texas) High School, Massanutten (Va.)Military School, Tyler (Texas) Junior College, and he made commitments to Texas A&M and New Orleans before finally landing at Marquette.
"It's funny how everything has played out and out of all the options I have had out of high school going from military school to New Orleans and all," Fulce said Thursday during Marquette's annual media day. "Its just kind of funny how all these things happened."
The common denominator in all these situations has been Marquette Head Coach Buzz Williams. Fulce had committed to Williams when he was an assistant at A&M, when he was head coach at New Orleans, and again when he was an assistant at Marquette. Fulce appreciates the commitment made by Williams and has learned many things through the lengthy process.
"Relationship wise, this is just one of those things where it is a blessing from God because (Coach Williams) has always been there for me," Fulce said.
"I have been through a lot academically and I have met a lot of new people, coaches, and have just been through it all. If you work hard it pays off in the end."
Fulce's prior relationship with Williams, coupled with his junior college experience, should make his transition to high-profile college basketball easier than that of most first-year players.
"I feel that [having college experience] is going to help me a lot because I am used to the shot clock and things like that," said Fulce. "The experience of the players [helps] because in JUCO they have a lot of transfers from a lot of high D-I's in the conference that we were in. So we played against a lot of good guys."
Also easing Fulce's transition is the fact that fellow Tyler JC transfer Jimmy Butler will be suiting up for his first season with the Golden Eagles this year as well. The two roomed together last season while playing for the Apaches and both maintain they have an excellent relationship on and off the court.
"I would say that we talk about the things on the court, the things that we can do better, where each other is going to be," said Butler. "Like if I am driving to the left, I know that Joe is flashing to the free throw line because he loves that shot. When I go middle I know that he is popping to the baseline. We talk about that type of stuff and we like to strategize.
"I mean we like to joke but when it comes down to being serious we are going to be serious. When we got teammates in the room we are just having fun. Joe and I are roommates again up here and it is the same thing. If we have work to get done, whether it is school or basketball, we are going to get it done. We keep each other in line because we know what each other is about."
Fulce is all business on the court, where Marquette will count on his 6'7", 205-pound frame to provide help defending and grabbing rebounds, two points of emphasis laid out by Williams during his opening remarks for a team that is severely lacking in size this season. Last season, Fulce's 13.2 rebounds-per-game average ranked second in the NJCAA.
"My length helps a lot and I am real active on the court," said Fulce. "I come to the court with a lot of energy and I feel that is going to be a big part of my role on the team. Rebounding wise, I just like to rebound. Rebounding and defense win games."
Speaking of bringing energy to the court, Fulce has drawn comparisons to another high-energy player, Shawn Marion of the Miami Heat. Fulce couldn't help but laugh when asked about the comparison.
"Yeah, I have heard that, too. When it comes to that I just try to play my game. I let everyone else just say however I play, and if I play like him then I play like him but I am just out here playing my game."
Marquette will need Fulce to continue playing his game if they want to have success this season.
Alex Jesswein is a freshman majoring in finance.
This is the second of six feature stories on MarquetteHoops.com leading up to Marquette Madness. Check back tomorrow for an introduction to Fulce's JUCO teammate, Jimmy Butler.