Before Michael Jordan was making Bryon Russell fall with a killer crossover and draining the go ahead jumper to win his sixth NBA title with the Chicago Bulls, Jordan was a skinny, determined athlete dominating the competition at Laney High (Wilmington, N.C.).
Before Adrian Peterson was trucking opposing defenses and racking up 2,097 yards in a single season for the Minnesota Vikings, he was shining bright under the Friday night lights at Palestine High (Palestine, Texas), averaging 12 yards a carry and scoring 32 touchdowns.
Before any athlete can become legendary, they have to lay their foundation in the high school ranks.
I caught up with Markelle Fultz’s trainer and director of his DC Blue Devils AAU team Keith Williams.
Fultz was the No. 1 pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft.
Jason Jordan: What’s your best memory of Markelle on the court during his high school years?
Keith Williams: It was when he played against Roselle Catholic and Isaiah Briscoe at the Hoophall Classic. At the time, I felt like Briscoe was the better player. Someone wrote before the game that a lot of guards try to press up on Briscoe defensively, but they don’t call him “Boogie” for nothing. So before the game I’m telling ‘Kelle not to get into his body and different things like that. ‘Kelle really took that to heart and took it as a challenge and the second play of the game he tried to dunk on Briscoe, but Briscoe fouled him. That’s when he developed this pimp in his walk. He pimped all the way over to the free-throw line. That’s when I knew he was ready!
JJ: What’s your best memory of Markelle off the court?
KW: Wow, there are too many of those to name, but I think the biggest things are him advocating for himself when he struggled in school and getting a tutor. He’d get up at 5 a.m. to meet with the tutor before school because he wanted to do better in the classroom. That’s just the type of person that he is.
JJ: He’s got the crazy story of having to play JV as a sophomore, which, as you know, is unheard of for players of his caliber. What’s the story behind that?
KW: (Laughs) Yeah, well, I definitely didn’t agree with that to say the least, but, you know how it is, at schools like DeMatha you’ve already got established kids who are stars. It just took them a little longer to realize what they had in ‘Kelle.
JJ: What was the craziest story you can recall from his recruitment?
KW: (Laughs) Well, when ‘Kelle got his first offer it was from High Point University and his mom was planning for him to go there. She was already planning to drive down to North Carolina and be decked out in all her High Point gear during the games. She thought that was it! I was like WHOA! There will be way bigger offers than High Point, just wait. But she was ready to ship him on off to High Point. They would’ve had Markelle Fultz; how about that!
JJ: Why was Markelle the right pick at No. 1?
KW: It takes so much more than basketball to be a superstar in the league and a lot of it has to do with the type of person you are. Overall, he’s ideal to fit that role. His game and his character are through the roof and he’s a guy that a front office person would trust with the future of the organization.
JJ: What set him apart from the other top picks?
KW: Ultimately, he always got better every couple of months from the time he was very young. He’s gradually getting better and better. That consistency isn’t normal. I think everyone noticed his progress and they feel like he’s a guy who hasn’t even scratched the surface of his potential and that’s scary in a good way.
JJ: This time next year will Markelle’s mom have the NBA Rookie of the Year award in her trophy case?
KW: I think she will. Now I’m biased, but it’s like I said before he’s consistently gotten better every year and he’s the type of player who is just never satisfied. He’s the big star, but he works and carries himself like a guy that’s trying to turn heads. That will serve him well throughout his career.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY