Markelle Fultz, Jonathan Isaac Congratulate Graduating Orange County Public School Students in Video Messages

by John Denton

ORLANDO - Who better to encourage and congratulate the future leaders of Central Florida than the young and robust future leaders of the Orlando Magic?

Wanting to do whatever they could to help make graduation ceremonies special for a Class of 2020 that saw their school year dramatically disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Magic standouts Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz recently recorded video messages for graduating Orange County Public Schools students.

OCPS students have been out of school since March 13 when districts were closed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The closure of the schools over the past 2 ½ months resulted in students being forced to finish out classes virtually by means of ``distance learning.’’ In the case of the various senior classes, it meant that thousands of students had to miss out on their final proms and formal graduation ceremonies from high school.

Isaac, who has had to deal with season-ending ankle and knee injuries in two of his three NBA seasons thus far, certainly can relate to students trying to cope with the loss of something very important to them. Dressed in a gray USA Basketball hoodie he received last summer while practicing against the team that was expected to represent USA in the Summer Olympics before its postponement, Isaac flashed a toothy smile while wishing seniors all the best in their future endeavors.

``What is up, Class of 2020? This is Jonathan Isaac from the Orlando Magic and I just wanted to congratulate you and tell you how awesome you are for graduating,’’ said the nearly 7-foot forward.

``I know (graduation) doesn’t look exactly the way that you wanted it to with everything that is going on right now but be so very proud of yourself with the milestone that you’ve accomplished with your life,’’ Isaac added. ``Keep your eyes on the future, keep thinking of what’s good, keep God in your life, and go do great things. Go do amazing things! So, I’m proud of you, keep doing you and let’s go! Go Magic!’’

Fultz, who turned 22 years old on Friday, became one of the NBA’s best feel-good stories this season with the way that he’s battled back from a right shoulder injury that threatened to derail his NBA career before it got started in earnest. The first overall pick of the 2018 NBA Draft, Fultz played in just 33 games over his first two NBA season because of a painful and debilitating condition in his right shoulder known as Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. However, after trading for the point guard, the Magic patiently stood by Fultz to allow him to get healthy and pave the foundation for his successful return in Orlando this season.

Now, Fultz wants to stand by seniors who have been denied traditional graduation ceremonies because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

``Hey Class of 2020, this is Markelle Fultz of the Orlando Magic. I just want to congratulate you guys and wish you the best of luck in the future. Always believe in magic,’’ he said in the video for students.

Isaac, Fultz, Aaron Gordon, Mo Bamba and Wes Iwundu make up a young core that expects to be centerpiece building blocks for the Magic for years to come. At the time of the stoppage of the NBA season on March 11, Orlando had won three games in a row, six of nine and eight of 12 games to pull within a half-game of Brooklyn for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference.

The NBA announced recently that it is studying ways to restart its season in either July or August at Disney World in nearby Lake Buena Vista, Fla. At this time, it is uncertain whether the NBA will finish out the regular season or restart with the playoffs. The Magic seem poised to make the postseason for a second straight year – a first for the franchise since the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons.

Isaac, who suffered a sprained knee and a bone bruise in the left joint in a Jan. 1 victory over the Washington Wizards, averaged career highs in scoring (12.0), rebounding (6.9) and assists (1.4) this season in 32 games before the injury. At the time, Isaac ranked fourth in the NBA in blocked shots (2.4) and 12thin steals (1.6) – one of just two players in the league to rank in the top 15 in both categories.

Similarly successful this season, Fultz averaged career highs in points (12.1), assists (5.2), steals (1.3) and overall field goal percentage (47.3 percent) in 64 games (59 starts). Fultz scored a career-best 25 points on Jan. 6 against the Brooklyn Nets and registered the first triple-double of his Magic career on Jan. 15 in a road win over the Los Angeles Lakers (21 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists).

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.

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