High-flying prognosticator

After knee problems limited him to 11 games his first season at Marquette, Joe Fulce is finally healthy and ready to put on a show.

In the weeks leading up to the first game of the season, most college basketball players and coaches shy away from making predictions or guarantees.

But then there's Joe Fulce.

Two days before Marquette Madness, Fulce has guaranteed a title: The 2009 Dunk Contest championship.

"The dunk contest will be fun this year because I'm going to win it!" Fulce laughed. "I'm representing for the lean, long, dunk machines."

Obviously the season is more important than a dunk contest for the fans, but with his prediction, Fulce is telling everyone that he is healthy for the 2009-10 season.

"I'm in the best shape that I've ever been in," Fulce said. "I haven't had any problems or any pain, just rehabbing hard every day."

Head coach Buzz Williams agrees that Joe has looked strong. "Six weeks into what we've been doing, he's looked good. He hasn't missed a workout, hasn't missed a sprint. He'll be able to help us for sure."

Fulce has spent a lot of time rehabbing on his own this summer while recovering from knee surgery. When the rest of the team went home in August, Fulce stayed in Milwaukee.

A lot of credit has to be given to assistant trainer Ernest Eugene, who has worked with Fulce since his surgery. Williams said that Fulce spends time before and after every workout with Eugene strengthening his knee.

"I had at least three rehab sessions a day that lasted two hours, just getting all the muscles strong around my knee. I wore compression sleeves all the time, and iced all night. I came back a lot earlier than expected thanks a lot to Ernest."

The work has paid off for Fulce, and he feels the difference after this most recent boot camp.

"After boot camp last year, I couldn't walk up the stairs because of my knee. This year, it feels good. It's a good feeling."

Fulce expects to bring a lot of energy to this year's team. He has been playing a few different positions during summer workouts, and he feels he's flexible enough to contribute from several different spots during the regular season.

"Right now, my position is an energy guy," Fulce stated. "I want to run my opponent down until he has to sub out. I really think I can help on the boards and use my length in the passing lane."

His teammates have also noticed his improvement, including newcomer Darius Johnson-Odom.

"Joe's been looking real good," Johnson-Odom said. "One day in the gym, he did a reverse dunk that was amazing. Jimmy [Butler] tried to block his dunk, so he reversed and did the dunk on the other side."

The wait to play meaningful Division I basketball for has been a long one Fulce, with a year in junior college and injuries limiting him to 11 games last season. This year, Fulce is ready to help the team. Even ready enough to answer the question of team expectations straight.

"We're going to surprise a lot of people," Fulce said. "Predictions are tough, expectations are what they are, but all I can say is, expect the unexpected this year."

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