On the Beat | Appreciative Fultz Visits Sixers
CAMDEN - Representing a dramatic, noteworthy development just days before the draft, the 76ers capped a busy Saturday by hosting Markelle Fultz at their training complex for a private workout.
Previously, Fultz, who led all freshmen last season and ranked sixth overall in the NCAA with a 23.2 points per game scoring average, had only visited with two other teams, the Boston Celtics, and the Los Angeles Lakers.
According to the guard, widely viewed as one of the top prospects in this year’s draft, arranging Saturday’s solo session took about two days. He had been spending time in his hometown in southern Maryland, just off the Capital Beltway, when he got the call that he was scheduled to meet with the Sixers. The ride up to Camden took about three hours.
Fultz said the experience reminded him of what it was like barnstorming the AAU circuit. He slept a bit on the drive, got to his destination, put on some gear, and hit the hardwood. In his eyes, the 25-minute workout went “great.”
“Any chance I get a chance to step on the basketball court, I love it,” said Fultz. “I got to put in some work straight out the car, so today was a good day.”
Live with @MarkelleF on Facebook
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) June 18, 2017
The Sixers currently hold the third overall selection in Thursday’s draft, in addition to picks 36, 39, 46, and 50 in the second round. Boston is slated to go first, while Los Angeles sits second. Whether or not Fultz will be available when the Sixers’ turn comes around remains to be seen.
“I’m truly blessed to be in this position,” said Fultz, when asked about where thinks he might go. “Whatever happens, I’m looking forward to taking my talents wherever I go.”
En route to earning All-America honors as a rookie at Washington, Fultz proved to be a scoring powerhouse, filling up the cup in a variety of ways. He boasts the ability to drive and finish inside, can do damage in the open court, and frequently gets to the free throw line. Then, there’s his pure, smooth shooting stroke.
Per Synergy Sports, Fultz converted 40.4 percent of his jump shots from 17-feet or less, and 44.7 percent of his shots between 17-feet and the 3-point line. He buried 41.3 percent of his 3-point tries (52 for 126), and nailed 38.3 percent of his catch-and-shoot opportunities (23 for 60). The touch, the moves, Fultz figures to have a complete scoring package.
Last year, Fultz placed first in the Pac-12 in assist percentage (35.5), second in assists per game (5.9), and fourth in total assists (148). Defensively, he made an impact as well, generating the fourth-most steals per game in the conference (1.6), and demonstrating a knack for delivering impressive chase-down blocks.
“I think first of all, I bring a winning mentality, just coming in giving it my all every day,” said Fultz, “then, a playmaker ability just to get other people involved and score the ball from all three levels. Also, on the defensive end, just going to block shots and rebounding. Just pretty much doing whatever they need me to do to win.”
As valuable and enticing as Fultz’s skill set seems to be, the 19-year old said he takes great pride in how he carries himself, both on and off the court. He considers his humility to be a defining trait that separates him from his peers.
”You won’t have to worry about me getting into trouble,” Fultz said. “I’m a humble young man. You’re going to see me giving back to young kids - I’m big on giving back, and everything like that. I just want to give back to the community, and make everybody else feel better about themselves.”
Having grown up in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, Fultz said he’s been to Philadelphia a handful of times. Before leaving the area Saturday night, his plan was to grab a cheesesteak, from Larry’s, near 9th and Girard, maybe.
Upon arriving at the Sixers’ training complex shortly after 7 o’clock, Fultz, sporting a black Sixers hat, was greeted by the sound of fans chanting his name as he walked from his car into the facility. He said it would be “pretty cool” to play for a young team like the Sixers that he feels has such high upside, and called the welcoming he received "crazy."
"Just showing if I come here how invested the fans are. It shows the city how much love they have for their players, and everything liked that, so I'm just blessed to come here."
Once he completed his on-court work, Fultz sat down with Brett Brown for a few minutes inside the coach’s office. He then talked to reporters, and had a brief moment to say hello to Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Robert Covington, all of whom watched his session.
Hangin' with the fellas. pic.twitter.com/KNFjdoF0gN
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) June 18, 2017
”I’ve been in contact with them since I’ve been in college,” Fultz said of the group, “really, just talking about motivating me for college, and just giving me little pointers to help me out throughout my career, and me wishing them good luck as they were going throughout the season.”
With only four days separating Saturday from Thursday’s draft at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Fultz expressed his excitement about being on the cusp of finishing an impressive ascent. Three years ago, he was a sophomore playing junior varsity basketball for renowned DeMatha Catholic. Now, Fultz appears to be at the head of this year’s draft class.
“It was a dream I had since I was a young kid,” he said. “It just shows how much hard work I put in, how dedicated I am to do what I do. I set goals for myself, and I go out there and achieve them.”