I’ve spent a lot of time recently hammering out end-of-year awards stories for high school hoops, from all-state teams to our coveted Argus Leader First Five.
It’s got my nostalgia senses tingling, and I’m left obsessing about one of South Dakota’s all-time greats.
*SPOILER* This is in reference to an April Fools’ gag by Stu Whitney back in 2004. None of what you’re about to read is REAL.
No player caught our attention quite like Albert Fuller. The prodigious middle-schooler burst onto the scene back in 2004 and stole our hearts in the process. Highlight-reel dunks, behind the back passes and super-slick crossovers. The kid had it all. And then — *POOF* — he disappeared.
Fuller left town and the light went out. But it still glows hot.
Read about him. Straight out of the archives, here’s Whitney’s story on Fuller.
After several days of trying to hide my amazement, I’ve decided to unveil the truth about a basketball phenom who lives right here in the Sioux Empire.
People were startled to see this kid at last week’s YMCA Tri-State Tournament, because he stands 6-foot-6, weighs 200 pounds and dominates defenders with an array of dazzling dunks.
Ready for the best part? He’s only 12 years old.
I have been asked not to reveal too many details about Albert Fuller, because his family wants him to lead a normal life. But how many sixth-graders are getting letters from NCAA powers such as North Carolina, Arizona, Texas Tech and Missouri?
“Let me tell you this,” said one North Central Conference coach, who saw Fuller score 38 points in an opening-round Tri-State game. “As a sixth-grader, he’s already one of the top five players this state has ever seen.”
For Texas Tech’s Bob Knight, who made history at Indiana by recruiting Damon Bailey in junior high, Fuller is the real deal. The legendary coach has requested that Albert attend the Red Raiders’ basketball camp this summer.
On Saturday at the Tri-State, the hype was hard to handle. One of Fuller’s soaring dunks actually brought down the wooden backboard at a local gym, tearing brackets from the wall as panicked parents ran for cover.
“Only kid to cause that much commotion in the history of this event,” said stunned tournament director Don Arend, who has talked to Sports Illustrated about the feat. “We had to finish the game at a different school.”
Less than a year ago, Fuller and his family moved to the Sioux Falls area from Los Angeles, where his parents were teachers. They got fed up with the public-school system in California and headed to South Dakota, where Albert’s aunt has lived for more than 20 years.
“She told me I would probably be the best player in my grade,” shrugged Albert, who will shake up the city’s middle-school sports scene next fall. “I like it here, but my parents are worried about basketball taking over my life.”
It’s important to remember that Fuller is just a kid – even if he makes area high school stars appear helpless when he plays YMCA pick-up games. On a recent afternoon in his driveway, he nailed about 20 straight jumpers while telling a reporter the plot of “Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London.”
As a bright student with a 34-inch vertical leap, he’s going to be extremely popular over the next few years. Before the college recruiting heats up, there are those feisty high school coaches to worry about.
“With open enrollment, nobody knows what high school this kid will attend,” said the NCC coach, who asked to remain anonymous due to NCAA rules. “If he doesn’t go to some nationally ranked prep school like Oak Hill Academy, he’ll dominate South Dakota like no other athlete ever has.”
As a matter of fact, there is speculation that Fuller will top the state’s all-time high school scoring record of 2,825 points – set by Lake Norden’s Don Jacobsen in the 1950s.
That’s a lofty goal for a kid whose young career has been shrouded in secrecy – but word is starting to spread. To learn more about Albert Fuller, take the first letter in each of the first 10 paragraphs of this column and read them all in a row.
That should spell it out for you.