Markelle Fultz is Terrific: Will Washington Waste Him?Posted by Mike Lemaire on November 17th, 2016
Last Sunday night in Seattle provided a huge helping of catharsis for the Lorenzo Romar detractors out there. Romar certainly didn’t help his case by bravely taking to Twitter after the game — a 98-90 loss to Yale — to thank the fans. Not so grateful Washington fans responded by asking why the longtime Huskies head coach still has a job. It is hard to blame those fans for their frustration after watching their team shoot almost 60 percent from the field against an Ivy League opponent and still lose by giving up nearly 100 points to a team without its best player. Perhaps the most disheartening part of the result is that it appears the college basketball world will struggle to fully appreciate a potential No. 1 overall pick because his team won’t play many meaningful basketball games. Markelle Fultz was everything people said he would be (and more) in his debut, scoring 30 points on just 17 shots while adding seven rebounds and six assists to boot.
Fultz was hardly perfect — he missed four free throws and contributed greatly to the team’s overall defensive malaise — but he dominated the Bulldogs on the offensive end in a smooth and effortless manner. At times it barely looked like he was trying — the freshman would just glide up the court, beat his defender off the dribble and make a shot. East Coast fans with insomnia could do worse than tuning in to watch Fultz work his offensive magic a couple times per week. The problem is that, much like Ben Simmons at LSU last season, Fultz appears condemned to basketball purgatory, sentenced to a season of video game numbers with plenty of losing. That is an unfortunate outcome for everyone who loves college basketball, because the sport as a whole benefits when the best players play meaningful games.
The Huskies will look to regroup tonight against Cal State Fullerton. The question that Romar must solve is whether a group that looked young and undisciplined on Sunday can correct those deficiencies. The Huskies finished with more turnovers (13) than assists (10). They were badly out-rebounded (-12) by a much smaller team. They missed almost half of their 26 free throws. If things don’t quickly improve quickly on all of these fronts — starting tonight — college basketball fans will be doomed to a season marveling at Fultz’s statistical lines in the box score without ever having seen him play. Five years from now, no one will remember anything about Simmons’ only season at LSU other than the fact that he was really good. It will be a shame if Fultz’s college career follows a similar path.