PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Markelle Fultz’s work ethic and desire to succeed are second to none according to his high school coach, Mike Jones from Dematha High School in Hyattsville, Md.
A work ethic and desire honed when Jones cut Fultz from the varsity basketball team as a sophomore.
Coach Jones says, “He was talented enough to play on our varsity team but I was concerned with how many minutes he was going to get consistently. In hindsight obviously I was a fool. He was better than a lot of the players that wound up making the team. But in terms of his leadership, in terms of leading other players, in terms of his work ethic, in terms of just him getting everything done, that year really helped his development.”
And develop he did.
Fultz went from that JV year to being one of the top 3 or 4 players in the country as a senior, surprising some by choosing to go to the University of Washington who had been recruiting him all along instead of jumping at one of the dozens of big time offers he started getting.
Coach Jones says “He’s a loyal kid.”
It wasn’t an easy year for Fultz and the Huskies as they struggled going 9 and 22 in his only year there, leading some to question whether or not he can be a winner, but Coach Jones says stop right there.
Coach Jones says, “To say he’s not a winner is ridiculous. He won in high school. He won on his AAU team. He won with USA basketball. And yet, one season for four months where they weren’t very successful, he didn’t even play in all of the games they lost, but they didn’t win a game without him. You can’t tell me this kid isn’t a winner, that four months of basketball discredits the rest of his basketball resume; that just doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Coach Jones says Fultz is just as good off the court as on it.
“I think that’s something the Philadelphia community is really gonna enjoy because he’s not gonna be this kid that just shows up to his games and goes home. He’s gonna be out in the community. He’s going to be an inspiration to a lot of young African-American boys in particular but to the community as a whole.”
DeMatha has had 22 players in their history make the NBA but Fultz would be the first to be drafted no. 1 overall.
Coach Jones says, “It’s unbelievable, it’s a great story, it’s a true testament to what hard work does.”
He also says, “Some guys they achieve a certain level of stature and status and they’re comfortable. Markelle is just going OK I achieved this goal, now my next goal is and truly work hard going after that. I think that’s what makes him special; that’s what makes him unique; he’ll never be satisfied. He’s always gonna try to prove people wrong. He’s gonna be one heck of a pro and I can’t wait to watch him.”
Coach Jones adds, “The colors of the Sixers are the same colors as DeMatha so that makes it a little easier to root for him but we would’ve rooted for Markelle no matter where he went. We’re all just very proud of him.”