Trainer Keith Williams is no stranger to high level basketball players. Based in Washington D.C., Williams has trained greats like Demarcus Cousins, Kevin Durant, Gilbert Arenas, Michael Beasley, and Ty Lawson, among many others. So when Williams talks about a player, the rest of the basketball world listens.
These days Williams is talking about Markelle Fultz, a 6-4 shooting guard in the 2016 class who plays at DeMatha Catholic High School, a school known for producing NBA talent. Fultz actually played on the junior varsity team his first two years before exploding on to the varsity scene this past season. He continued his rise by dominating spring AAU ball, and has garnered attention from coaches, scouts, and fans.
“I realized early on that at the very least, he had the passion for the game,” said Williams. “He used to work out with me, play in AAU, and then ask his mom if he could work out again. He’s a great kid and a hard worker. I’ve known him for almost 10 years now.”
Every high school player thinks they work hard, but Fultz had a chip on his shoulder after not making the varsity team early in his high school career.
“I took it as a lesson,” Fultz told the Courier-Journal. “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.”
That hard work is paying off. Fultz’s scoring ability and defense were noticed quickly as he led Dematha Catholic to a 33-4 record. The Arizona coaching staff had a chance to see Fultz in person when his team played two games in Phoenix in January. After the second game, Fultz had received a scholarship offer from coach Sean Miller and his staff.
“He has a great relationship with the Arizona coaches, especially Sean and Book (Richardson),” said Williams. “They are a great fit for him, he’s very comfortable with Book and he speaks with Sean all the time.”
Arizona isn’t the only school recruiting Fultz, however. After being the third leading scorer (18.1 ppg) on the Under Armour AAU circuit this spring through eight games, just about everyone has come calling, including Kansas, Louisville, and Virginia. The only top school yet to offer is Kentucky, but that is likely to change quickly as Fultz is visiting Lexington this weekend.
Fultz plans on visiting Arizona June 8th-10th in what will be the first of a few summer visits. Washington and Miami are scheduled to receive visits as well, and other schools will likely be added to the schedule as the summer goes on.
“He’s really looking forward to his Arizona visit,” said Williams. “He has a special bond with coach Book. When Book is in the building, it seems like Markelle gives him all his time. I have to remind him to talk to all the coaches, but I think he just trusts Book.”
The recruiting process can be a whirlwind for a player who is rising quickly. Thanks to Willams and the other people around him, Fultz has a great support system and a plan for the process.
“This isn’t my first time through this,” said Willams, who helped Demarcus Cousins make his college choice. “Markelle would like to make a decision before he goes back to school, so he can focus on the season. A decision will likely be made by August. Recruiting is all about relationships and finding guys you can trust, so that’s what he’s looking for.”
Fultz is listed between 6-4 and 6-5, but he may not be done growing.
“He has really big feet,” said Williams.
Fultz doesn’t want to limit his position or role on the court either.
“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,” Fultz told the Courier-Journal.
Every program in the country will be trying to get Fultz on campus and to secure a commitment. Arizona will have their chance on June 8th.