Is Markelle Fultz Destined to be the Next Ben Simmons?
A year ago, Ben Simmons became the first No. 1 overall draft pick to be eligible for — and miss — the NCAA Tournament since Michael Olowokandi in 1998.
Is Markelle Fultz destined to follow in his footsteps?
The 6-foot-5 Fultz — the projected No. 1 pick in 2017 by DraftExpress.com — scored 25 points Wednesday night but his Washington team was obliterated by No. 8 Gonzaga 98-71 at The Kennel.
Lorenzo Romar’s Huskies are now 4-4 and have dropped three straight.
Their next chance to topple a ranked team doesn’t come until a Jan. 4 date with No. 24 Oregon in Pac-12 play. After that they play No. 2 UCLA and No. 20 Arizona twice apiece.
Looking at the big picture, Romar hasn’t taken the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament since 2011 despite having five first-round picks during that time, including No. 8 Marquese Chriss and No 29 Dejounte Murray last year.
If one of those two had stayed on campus to play with Fultz, maybe things would be different this year. But they didn’t so it’s a moot issue.
Romar has done a tremendous job recruiting, and has 6-9 Michael Porter Jr. signed for 2017. Porter Jr. is the projected No. 5 pick in 2018 per DraftExpress.com, but in all likelihood he’ll never play with Fultz, who was the MVP of the USA U18 team this summer when he blew up and impressed NBA scouts.
“I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t be in the running to be the No. 1 pick next year,” Texas and U18 head coach Shaka Smart said this summer on The 4 Quarters Podcast.
“He can do everything. He’s got great size for a guard. He’s a terrific athlete. He’s got a great body that’s only getting better and better. And he’s a humble kid who wants to work, wants to be part of a team, doesn’t mind getting coached and being held accountable. So when you add all those things up, he’s a dream. I’m happy for [Washington coach] Lorenzo [Romar] that he’s going to get to coach him.”
Unfortunately at this point, it doesn’t look like Romar will coach him in the NCAA Tournament.
**For more on this topic, check out ESPN’s Jeff Goodman on The 4 Quarters Podcast.Follow Adam Zagoria on TwitterAnd like ZAGS on Facebook
Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.