A Closer Look at Washington’s Markelle Fultz

Posted by Luke Byrnes on December 8th, 2016

The game of basketball has changed dramatically over the last few decades. The three-point shot has become a significant offensive piece rather than an afterthought, “small-ball” lineups have become en vogue at every level of basketball, and youth has taken over. With these changes have come a different type of NBA prospect — someone like Washington freshman guard Markelle Fultz. Considered the likely overall No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft by many, Fultz has great length (6’4″ with a 6’9” wingspan), silky smooth athleticism, and is extremely skilled — all characteristics that coincide with the evolution of the game toward players that transcend position. And Fultz does just that. The point guard is shooting 50.8 percent from the field, including a scorching 48.5 percent from three-point range, while averaging 23.0 points, 7.1 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.4 blocks and 2.0 steals per game. On Wednesday night, Fultz’s Huskies renewed their cross-state rivalry — which had fallen dormant for nearly a decade — with #8 Gonzaga. The Bulldogs quickly ran away from his team and, for the better part of the game, the only drama in the McCarthey Center swirled around whether Fultz would put on display the skill set that has propelled him to the top of nearly every mock draft.

Markelle Fultz (USA Today Images)

If You Didn’t Watch Last Night, You Missed One of Your Few Opportunities to See Markelle Fultz on National Television (USA Today Images)

Well… Yes and no. 

Fultz, like the rest of the Dawgs, got off to a slow start. The superstar freshman made just two of his first eight shots and finished the first half with six points (3-of-14 FG) as Washington trailed 47-22 at the break. Despite his shooting struggles, Fultz showed that he is equally capable of affecting a game without scoring. He grabbed seven first half rebounds, including four offensive, and also logged one blocked shot and a steal. The point guard who is the presumptive #1 pick couldn’t buy a bucket and played a half without a single assist?  Well, yes, but… as poorly as Fultz shot in the first half, his teammates didn’t exactly pick up the slack or capitalize on the scoring opportunities created by their floor general’s playmaking and rebounding. The rest of the Huskies combined to shoot 21.4 percent from the field before halftime, repeatedly missing layups and open jumpers. Fultz still put his well-rounded skill set on display by consistently getting into the lane, mostly going to his right, using a deceptively quick first step and finishing with 10 rebounds. 

While the freshman didn’t show elite-level explosiveness, he moved with an almost effortless fluidity that allowed him to create space for himself and shots for his teammates. Fultz’s silky glide even caused one Eastern Conference scout sitting nearby to wonder aloud about the prospect’s motor — a question answered, at least in part, when Fultz missed a jumper that led to a Gonzaga fast break on which he raced down court and swatted away what appeared to be an easy layup for Josh Perkins. Fultz’s full game came alive in the second half when he made seven of 12 shots, including three from three-point range, and scored 19 points. While those stats are great, however, they don’t tell the whole story. The freshman continued to show hustle and was a constant source of energy and enthusiasm for the Huskies despite a deficit that never dropped below 24 points in the second half.  “He’s a pretty versatile guard,” Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar said of his precocious freshman. “For his size, he does a lot of things on the floor. He loves to play.”

Just eight games into his college career, Fultz has already established himself as one of the best players in the country. His length, love for the game and diverse skill set will, soon enough, make some NBA team love to have Fultz play for it.

Luke Byrnes (2 Posts)

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