Les Schwab MVP Markelle Fultz Returns To Portland, Oregon, For 2016 Nike Hoop Summit
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When Markelle Fultz (DeMatha Catholic H.S./Upper Marlboro, Md.) takes the court wearing a USA Basketball jersey and playing in the 2016 Nike Hoop Summit on April 9 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon, the 6-foot-3 guard will be hoping to put on a show for West Coast basketball fans for the second time in four months.
This past December, Fultz and his DeMatha Catholic High School teammates took part in the 2015 Les Schwab Invitational in Portland, where Fultz was named tournament MVP. He averaged 20.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 3.8 steals and 2.0 blocks per game to help his team to a second-place finish.
“Portland was great,” Fultz said of the Les Schwab Invitational. “There are a lot of great fans out there. And then just playing out there was a good experience for me. I’m going to play on that side (of the country) in college. It was a great tournament, and I felt like I was welcome, so that was good.”
Fultz has signed a National Letter of Intent with the University of Washington for 2016-17, and the UW coaching staff was in attendance for DeMatha’s first game in the tournament.
“It was very good for me,” Fultz said of all of the fans he encountered while playing in Portland. “It gave me a little more motivation to play for them. Some people, it was there first time seeing me, and it might be their only time, but I just like leaving a great impression everywhere I go – that’s on the court and off the court.
“That would be real good for me,” said Fultz when asked if he hopes some of those fans return to see him in the 19th annual Nike Hoop Summit. “That would give me another motive to play for. I hope they do come back.”
This weekend, Fultz’s and DeMatha will head to Springfield, Massachusetts for the 2016 Hoophall Classic, where they will face Fultz’ USA Nike Hoop Summit teammate Jayson Tatum (St. Louis, Mo.) and Chaminade College Prep at 11 a.m. ET on Jan. 18 live on ESPNU. (DeMatha came out ahead by one point, 55-54 when the two teams played on Dec. 13, 2015.)
The 2016 USA Basketball Junior National Select Team that will play in the 2016 Nike Hoop Summit, however, draws from the best young players in the country. Fultz will team up with Tatum and two more three-time gold medalists, as well as seven players, who like himself, have at least one experience at a USA Basketball training camp
“It’s truly a blessing to play with the best of the best and then go to travel to Oregon to play against the World Team is really an honor for me,” Fultz said. “It was one of my goals that I had for this year. I’m just blessed that I’m able to be on the team.”
The 2015 Washington Catholic Athletic Conference Player of the Year, Fultz has a lot of objectives for this season.
“I have a lot of goals,” he said. “First of all, winning the WCAC Championship – we lost last year in the championship. Then just trying to help my team get as far as we can, and hopefully play for a national championship. A couple of my personal goals are winning player of the year in my conference, Gatorade state player of the year and hopefully get a nominee for national player of the year.”
In Fultz’ first and only USA Basketball experience, he took part in the 2015 USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team minicamp Oct. 3-4, where 51 of the nation’s best high school players spent four practice sessions training in preparation for future USA Basketball events, such as the Nike Hoop Summit.
“Just the competition there,” Fultz said when asked what sticks out to him when he thinks back to his time at minicamp. “The best players were there to compete and make me better, and I hope I made a lot other people better. It was just a good experience for me. (It was) my first time with USA Basketball, and it was really a good feeling to be around all those good players and working out with them and getting to spend time at that facility was just a good experience.”
The minicamp certainly helped Fultz get to know his 2016 Nike Hoop Summit coaches, L.J. Goolsby (KC Run GMC, Kan.) and Eric Flannery (St. Edward H.S., Ohio), who were on hand, as well as some of his USA teammates, but it also helped him understand what he can bring to the 12-member USA team.
“For my team at DeMatha, I bring leadership,” Fultz explained. “I’m a point guard. I can score. I’m a playmaker, really. I make stuff easier for my teammates, and I score when I have to.
“For the USA team, I hope to bring my leadership as far as helping people out, and I always bring my playmaking skills to make it easier for the other guys to score. And doing whatever I have to do to win. That’s my main goal.”
Fultz’ high school career has seen him miss the cut for the varsity team at DeMatha as a sophomore, and then return as a junior to not only make the team, but to average 16.5 ppg. during the season.
That drive to improve Fultz said came from three places: his love of the game and the inspiration of his mother and personal trainer.
“I’ve always loved basketball,” Fultz explained. “And then, my goal is to pay my mom back for everything that she has done for me. Seeing her work hard, it just gave me a little extra fire. I love the game of basketball. That is what I want to do for the rest of my life, so I just determined that I was going to work hard until I got it.
“She kept pushing me and told me to believe in God, and that just motivated me.
“And then my trainer, for just giving me the drills and being able to work out with me, even though it’s a Sunday, Monday, when he could be doing something else. He was willing to work out with me. I really thank both of them for all of that.”
So far in 2015-16, DeMatha is 13-2 and Fultz is averaging 17.7 ppg. His head coach there, Mike Jones, twice was the USA head coach for the Nike Hoop Summit, including a 112-98 loss in 2013 and an 84-73 win in 2014.
“He talked to me about it a little bit, but right now, he hasn’t really been talking about it,” Fultz said of Jones and his Hoop Summit experience. “He has been focused on our season. I’m pretty sure that before I go out there he will talk to me about all the big stuff and how important it is.
“But I took it as a personal thing to find out more about it, and I’ve been looking into it. It’s just a real big event, and I’m glad to be a part of it.
“It is going to be great,” Fultz added. “It’s always great to have the best of the best with you. That makes it easier for me to get them the ball where they can score, and it’s just going to be exciting to see how good we are.”
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