DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.) is historically one of the more prolific basketball powers in the country, and Mike Jones has been at the program’s helm for the last 15 years.
In that time, Jones has probably been forced to make many a tough decision when it comes to organizing his varsity vs. his junior varsity roster. In the fall of 2013, such a decision was made in regard to the player who many are predicting will be the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
With the Boston Celtics holding the No. 1 pick in next month’s NBA Draft, Jones spoke with Comcast Sports New England about myriad topics, including that decision he made over three years ago.
As he describes, it was a developmental decision.
“I don’t wanna say he was missing something,” Jones said. “It was just, he hadn’t really gone through his growth spurt yet. Obviously, with the talent he had, we did not want to have him basically playing sparse minutes on the varsity level. We figured if he played on the JV level, with some really good players, he would have the opportunity to really grow into a leadership role. And that’s exactly what he did.
“That was probably one of the best JV teams we’ve ever had in our school’s history,” Jones continued, “and Markelle was definitely the catalyst for everything they did – so much so that when we moved him up to the varsity level at the end of the season, he hit the ground running. There was no adjustment needed. And obviously, the following year, he was the best player in the DC area. He was the player of the year.”
Perhaps the most famous example of a high school basketball player being cut belongs to Michael Jordan, who didn’t make the Laney (Wilmington, N.C.) varsity team as a sophomore either. While there is only one Jordan, Fultz perhaps has used that sophomore slight as fuel in becoming a blue-chip recruit.
He was then able to go to the University of Washington and spend a year proving to the NBA powers that be that he is the odds-on favorite to be the first player taken.
His high school coach vouches for his character.
“I’ve known him since he was seven or eight years old from coming to basketball camp,” Jones told CSNNE. “His passion for the game has always been obvious, and again, I don’t see the fame and fortune that comes with an NBA career changing that. He is who he is, a very faith-filled young man, a very humble young man, and if Boston does draft him, they’re going to be very lucky to have him, very blessed to have him.”