Beach's Bits: Markelle Fultz is the Real Deal

Markelle Fultz is a name Washington Husky Basketball fans are already quite familiar with, even if they've never had the chance to see him in person. That changed for me over the holiday break when Fultz's Maryland-based team, the DeMatha Stags, headed cross-country to Portland to participate in the annual Les Schwab Invitational, a yearly tournament that brings together many of the top high school programs in the country.

The good news for Husky fans is that everything you've heard about Fultz is true: Markelle Fultz is hands down the most purely talented basketball player to ever come to Montlake.

In DeMatha's first game of the tournament, with the entire Husky coaching staff looking on, Fultz didn't disappoint. He dropped 27 points on 10-15 shooting, and racked up an impressive six rebounds, five blocks, four assists and four steals in the win. 

"It touched me a little bit," he said of the staff's attendance, clearly thrilled with the attention. Even Husky legend Brandon Roy sat courtside. "Coach (Lorenzo) Romar and Coach Chills (Raphael Chillious) came to pretty much every AAU game I had. It's really good to see them. It makes me feel that they still care about me. I'm just blessed to be committed to Washington."

Early in DeMatha's opening round game, Fultz caught fire as he scored 18-straight points. He turned a close game into a rout in a manner of minutes. "I was just clicking," Fultz said after the game. “I was getting to the rim and my shot was falling so when I was open, I was letting go. They were falling, so I just kept going.

"I try to start the game off trying to find other people and get to the rim. At the start of the game, people are looking at me because I'm the best player on the team, trying to double me, so I try to get people open, and that's when I get aggressive.” 

DeMatha cruised to blowout victories behind the incredible talents of their senior point guard. It's a preview of the role he will play at Washington. Fultz is expected to vault immediately into the starting lineup as Andrew Andrews’s replacement and will give the Huskies the dynamic playmaker they have lacked since Isaiah Thomas left early for the NBA.

Though Fultz is physically capable of playing any of the three guard positions in college, he will almost certainly spend the bulk of his time at Washington with the ball in his hands. He's primarily known right now for his electrifying scoring abilities, but his passing ability, instinct and feel running the point are all top notch. He's a good ball handler, though he does need to tighten up his handle, and he gets into the paint at will. 

Fultz’s smooth explosiveness separates him from his peers. Attacking from beyond the arc he covers a ton of ground in just a few steps, yet can stop on a dime, crossing up defenders or peppering them with his steady pull-up jumper. He's a deadly three point shooter and capable of delivering long range daggers whenever the opportunity presents itself. 

For all his offensive prowess, Fultz is every bit as effective on the defensive end. He plays with immense energy and uses his length and quickness to deflect passes and strip opposing ball-handlers, often leading to emphatic, crowd pleasing dunks at the other end of the floor. He's a high level shot-blocker as well, soaring from the wing seemingly from out of nowhere to swat away shots in the lane.   

"That's an underrated thing about me," said Fultz, though it's hard to imagine how shot-blocking could possibly get overlooked, even as a guard. "People don't see me as a shot blocker, but I'm pretty athletic and I try to get a lot ofdeflections and block shots to help my team."

Fultz is truly a compete player on both ends of the floor, showing few flaws.  

"I work on everything, every day," he explained, humbly. "I don't want to get behind on anything. I work on my jump shot, my ball handling, my perimeter game, being more aggressive and playing as hard as I can from beginning to end." 

Fultz knows he doesn’t have long to go before he’s doing damage for the Huskies. "I watch them every chance I can," he said. "I don't have Pac-12 Network, but I'm looking at highlights on my phone and watching them every time they're on TV.

"I can't wait to get there. It should be great. My goal is to get back to the (NCAA) Tournament, which we haven't done since 2011. That's my goal first of all, then winning the Pac-12 (Tournament). Helping my teammates out with their goals. Trying to help the team win."

After his high school season ends, Fultz has one last stop before setting his sights toward Montlake. "I made (USA) Hoops Summit so I go to USA Basketball first before I get to Washington,” he said.

DeMatha wasn't the only team in the LSI with a future Husky representing in Portland. Garfield guard and Husky commit Daejon Davis put his immense skills on display in a much ballyhooed showdown between the Bulldogs and the Stags. Davis netted 14 points, seven rebounds and three steals in a 74-64 loss. 

The game definitely didn't disappoint, and neither did Fultz, who nearly earned a triple double with 20 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and three blocks.


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