Column: From no confidence to the big leagues

(Photo: Markelle Fultz driving to the lane,Washington Post)

by Falu Seck

Markelle Fultz had a problem, until his assistant coach told him, “Play like yourself and not how others want you to play, and God will bless you beyond belief.”

Fultz was in JV but knew he was better than many of the players on varsity. But whenever he played around the varsity head coach, Ricky Lee, he would always become nervous and mess up.

” It was aggravating! Knowing that you’re ten times better than what you’re showing in front of your coach was stressful. I would put in hours of work daily just to end up playing like crap once the lights were on,” said Fultz in a phone interview.

Fultz at the time was coached by JV coach James White. While Lee was all about coaching, White was all about getting closer to the player’s life on and off the court.

“Coach White always would look out for me and make sure my head was on the right track. He would see me in the gym all the time and encourage me to keep working. He would always tell me that nobody should have more confidence in you then yourself!” said Fultz.

On November 7, 2014, James White died in a car accident before their first home game. Fultz was devastated hearing the news and broke down. One of the last things White told Fultz was to keep confidence in him and everything would play its part. Fultz explains that that was the only thing on his mind before playing on the court. Fultz didn’t trust in himself before, but wanting to keep his promise to his coach, he would go into the game with the upmost confidence in himself.

That game he had his high school career high: 28 points, 11 assists and five rebounds against the number two team in the country, Montverde. With Lee, the head varsity coach, in the audience Fultz would prove to him that he was ready to play varsity.

Later that season, Fultz went on to average 23 points and six assists throughout the season on JV. He was moved up to varsity during playoffs, and by the time his sophomore year was over, he started hearing from big time schools such as Washington, USC, and Xavier.

Fultz committed to Washington University and became a first pick in the 2016-2017 NBA Draft and now plays for the Philadelphia 76ers.

“Coach White played a huge part in my basketball career, “Fultz said. “Without his encouraging words on believing in myself, I don’t know where I would be to this day. I wish he was here to see how far I came. But I know he’s watching over me from above and smiling.”

 

 

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