Markelle Fultz grabbed a pass, turned up the court and sprinted toward the basket. The 6-foot-4 guard from the Washington, D.C., area blew past one defender and, in seemingly one motion, drove the lane and laid the ball in.
For those who have followed the high school junior this past school year, it was no surprise to see him asserting himself on offense or impressing the handful of college coaches who gathered to watch him play at the Under Armour Association event here in Louisville this weekend.
But for those who know Fultz’s longer story, it is still rather incredible that the Class of 2016 guard, ranked among the nation’s top-40 prospects by Scout.com, is where he is today. A year ago, Fultz had just finished his sophomore season on D.C. area powerhouse DeMatha High’s junior-varsity squad.
“I took it as a lesson,” Fultz said. “I just worked every day I was on JV to be the best player, then I’d work out every day after school with my trainer on the little things, just to get better with my ball handling, my shooting, my core work.
“I just became a lot more athletic. I just stayed in the gym every day, kept working and working. When it came to my first varsity game, I just tried to dominate. I just kept moving up and up.”
His remarkable progress has led to a rapidly moving recruiting process. Fultz now has 14 scholarship offers, including ones from Arizona, Kansas, Louisville and Virginia. Kentucky, Fultz said, has opened up lines of communication with him, too.
In Sunday’s finale at the MidAmerica Sports Center near Jeffersontown, Fultz scored 18 points in front of coaches from just about every school recruiting him. Not bad for a kid who was on JV a year ago.
“I thought I was good enough to play varsity, but God has his reason for everything,” Fultz said. “I just believed in God. My mom told me believe in God. I just let God take me where he wants to take me.”
The four games in Louisville helped Fultz in a few different ways. He improved his defense, and he also showed himself to be a versatile guard who can not only score but also create for his teammates.
As colleges scout and monitor him, Fultz wants colleges to see him as someone capable of playing three positions — point guard, shooting guard or small forward. His rebounding — he averages 5.2 boards a game in eight AAU contests this spring — helps his cause.
“I don’t like being seen as a 1 or a 2 or a 3 — I like to be seen as a guard who can play all the positions,” he said.
U of L offered Fultz a scholarship two weeks ago. Cards assistant Kenny Johnson, who has extensive connections to the D.C. area, has pitched using Fultz in that exact role.
“He sees me as a versatile guard,” Fultz said. “It’s a very good school. They’ve been doing very well with the guards. They let the guards play.”
UK watched Fultz play this past weekend, too, and Fultz is hoping for an offer from the Wildcats.
“I see a high, high-major school that has great players from all around the country,” Fultz said. “They get players into the NBA. They try to go undefeated every year.”
Now that he’s done with Under Armour’s two weekend events this month, Fultz wants to sit down with his mom and his trainer and discuss recruiting a bit more. He isn’t sure when he’ll start visiting schools.
“I know what I want,” Fultz said. “I just want to look into schools and see what they offer, then start stepping forward from there.
“I want to see how much I’m going to play, who I’m going to play with. Education-wise, I know I want to be an accountant, so I want to see if they have that there to offer. Then, just what’s going to prepare me for the next level. I want to hopefully make it to the NBA.”