Markelle Fultz Remains Faithful to the Grind

Markelle Fultz
by Dan Savage

ORLANDO -- If you happen to speak with Markelle Fultz or gander at one of his social media profiles, you’ll likely hear or see the phrase “Faithful to the Grind” (F2G).

For Fultz, those words are more than just a motto, they’re a lifestyle.

Fultz’s work ethic helped him develop into a basketball prospect worthy of the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, overcome a shoulder injury that some thought could be career ending, and now, will assist him as he approaches rehab for a torn ACL in his left knee.

“I think that’s what makes me the person I am and the player I am, to be able to have the mindset just to come in and be faithful to the grind,” Fultz explained. “No matter if it’s easy, hard, I’m just coming in to give my best effort and that’s all I can do, and that’s all I can ask for, and let the results take care of itself.”

The Magic’s floor leader takes that approach every single day whether related to basketball activities or life in general. Despite the injury, Fultz’s mentality has not changed, and he’s tried to be around the Amway Center and the team as much as possible.

“We have a goal, and the goal is just to get back onto the floor and play the game I love,” he said. “Just taking that approach to every day and really having fun, enjoying this process.”

Fultz’s outlook is evident to everyone around him and his positive approach to life is clear.

“Let’s put it this way,” Magic Head Coach Steve Clifford said to a reporter with a smile. “He’s handling his injury a lot better than his coaches.”

Perhaps it's because Fultz has experience in undertaking such massive endeavors. The 6-foot-4 guard has previously had his career put on hold after being diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome in 2018.

“He’s been very upbeat,” Clifford said. “He’s been through a lot already in his career and I think he’s handled everything extremely well. I think that the experience he had with his shoulder, with his knee, and with his wrist has given him an understanding of how hard rehab is and what lies ahead for him.”

His rehab process for his shoulder was no easy task, both physically and mentally. Along with being diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, the former No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft was subsequently dealt by the team who selected him, the Philadelphia 76ers, to the Magic at the trade deadline in February 2019. While some players would have crumbled under that pressure and stress, Fultz reinvented himself and began to thrive.

He worked relentlessly under the guidance of the Magic’s medical staff and under the tutelage of their coaches to regain strength in his shoulder and work his way back on to the court.

“I’ll bet my life on them, man,” Fultz said. “They’re the best of the best and I love them. They want what’s best for me and the team. It’s just that process of the grind again. It’s going to be a slow grind.”

Last season, that grind paid off. Fultz played in all but one of the Magic’s regular season games – which he missed due to an illness – and posted his best marks in points (12.1), assists (5.1) and rebounds (2.7) per game to date.

He was on pace to have another career year in 2020-21, averaging 12.9 points and 5.4 assists per contest before going down with a left knee injury.

“I’m actually in a great place as far as mental, just mindset going into everything,” Fultz said. “I actually never felt better actually just in life in general. Of course, it’s disappointing not being able to be out there with my teammates, seeing them going out there and competing. That’s probably what hurts the most.”

Fultz has watched every single one of the Magic’s games since his injury and is doing his best to help his team along the way. He knows the daunting task that’s now on the plate of rookie Cole Anthony as the team’s primary ballhandler and Jordan Bone, whose role has significantly increased to that of backup point guard. As a result, he’s sending both players texts with things he notices during games and providing any advice that they seek.

“I just want them to know that I’m supporting them and I’m their biggest supporter,” Fultz said. “I think that this team is very, very talented. It goes way beyond one or two players.”

Fultz is expected to have surgery in the coming weeks. Along with following his rehab guidelines, he’s remained diligent in following his routine upper body workouts.

“Everything I’ve been through in life, not just basketball, in general, has prepared me for this moment,” Fultz said. “I honestly never felt better as far as just everything, even my body. Even though I tore my ACL, just my spirits, every day I wake up, I don’t feel bad. I’m very happy to get started the next day. There’s just so much I can still do. People think that when something like this happens everything just goes to a standstill, but one thing I’ve learned is there’s still so much more you can do.”

As always, he’s faithful to the grind.

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