Josh Jackson, Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, and Lonzo Ball.
All four prospects are ranked ahead of Washington commit Markelle Fultz in Rivals’ top-150 for the class of 2016. ESPN has Fultz ranked 7th on their list, while he is ranked 4th in 247 Sports’ rankings.
Is this too low? Can Fultz be the best player in this class during the 2016-17 season and possibly down the road in the NBA?
The answer is an astounding yes.
The 6’4″, 190 combo guard from Upper Marlboro, MD is an elite level athlete and is one of the smoothest, gifted offensive players that you will find. Fultz can score at all three levels, as he has an elite mid-range game, the ability to attack the basket and finish in transition, and has the stroke from long range.
He glides with the ball in his hands, using his super long strides and quickness to get into the lane and rise for emphatic slams. Fultz can play in any scheme because of the versatility of his game, but he is at his best when he plays in a fast tempo, transition oriented system (which fits Lorenzo Romar perfectly).
The Maryland native can create his own offense at any time, and has improved ball handling skills.
His defense isn’t top notch, but he has the size and length to develop into a player that can guard numerous positions at both the college and professional level.
At Washington, Fultz will step right in and will be given the keys to the car. Dejounte Murray is gone to the NBA, and Andrew Andrews (who handled the ball a lot last season) has graduated, so Fultz will handle a hefty load throughout his freshman campaign. Fultz is not exactly a true point guard (his decision making can be shaky at times), but he is such an elite scorer and is improving as a passer.
And the Huskies also have rising sophomore David Crisp, who will be able to handle some duties at the point guard position after playing 20 minutes a game last year.
What is especially promising about Fultz is the fact that he was on DeMatha Catholic High School’s JV team as a sophomore. He made a meteoric rise due to his hard work and the continued improvements he made with his game.
Last summer, I saw Fultz play Josh Jackson in an AAU event in Ardsley, New York. While Jackson was fantastic, I was blown away by Fultz’s ability, especially the way he picked his spots in the mid-range.
He wasn’t a great shooter at the time, but in the coming months, he drastically developed his three point jumper into a more consistent threat. He also wasn’t a great ball handler, and is now as lethal as they can come in the open floor.
Fultz played in the U18 FIBA Americas this past week, helping the USA team win the gold medal over Canada. The Washington commit averaged 13.8 points (7th best scoring average in the tournament), shot an excellent 54 percent from the field, shot 33 percent from long range, grabbed four rebounds and dished out 5.2 assists.
(The only player who averaged more points per game than Fultz was Michael Porter Jr., who put up 15.8 points per game).
And Fultz put together his most complete performance on the biggest stage: The gold medal game. He scored 23 points (10-of-16 shooting, 3-of-6 from three), dished out five assists, grabbed five rebounds, had three steals and recorded just two turnovers.
He could not be stopped.
So, yes Fultz has a chance to be the best player in the class of 2016, both next year and in the NBA. His work ethic, athleticism and solid physical tools will launch him into the lottery, but first he should capture the Pac-12’s attention with his dynamic offensive game.
Remember his name, because he’s not going anywhere.
Rick Barnes Says He Would Have Left Tennessee if UCLA Paid Buyout
Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes could have been the next head coach for UCLA, instead of Mick Cronin, if only the Bruins were willing to open up their wallets.
Barnes says that if UCLA would have promised to pay Barnes’ $5 million buyout, he would have left Tennessee to take the job at UCLA.
“I think I would’ve been the coach at UCLA,” Barnes said (h/t ESPN). “I’ve said that to people before. I really felt at that time that’s what would happen.”
Barnes was honest and open with his decision process during the news conference, saying that he struggled with making a final decision due to financial matters.
Barnes has since agreed to a new deal with Tennessee that will pay him $4 million per year before increasing to a $6 million annual sum by the end of the contract and provide more cash for his assistants.
“I’m supposed to be at Tennessee,” Barnes said. “And it’s really above and beyond the basketball program. I’m in love with this community. I’m in love with this state. I just think we got a lot of great things going on in this town.”
“A lot of praying went into it, I can tell you that,” Barnes said. “There was a lot going on. When you get down to a situation like that, it has to make sense from a financial standpoint. Bottom line is we couldn’t work it out with the buyout.”
Barnes also informed UCLA that he would not depart Knoxville without talking to athletic director Phillip Fulmer and others in the community.
I told them point blank, ‘I’m not going to walk out of here and not meet with my team,'” Barnes said. “‘I’m not going to walk out of here and not meet with people here that have been really good to me.’ … I said, ‘You just can’t say send a plane tomorrow and we’re leaving. I’m going to make sure this is done the right way.'”
“There was one time in my mind I truly felt that’s what would happen,” Barnes said about potentially taking the UCLA offer. “It got to that point where I felt like my prayers had been answered.”
The Madness is Underway
As we inch closer to selection Sunday, many conference tournaments are underway finding teams who will automatically make the NCAA Men’s basketball. Here are the teams that currently in the tournament:
Atlantic Sun: Liberty
Big South: Gardner–Webb
Horizon: Northern Kentucky
Missouri Valley: Bradley
MEC: Fairleigh Dickinson
Ohio Valley: Murray State
Summit League: North Dakota State
Summit League: Saint Marry’s
Out of the 32 conferences with automatic bids in the tournament, 12 of them have been clinched. All the until selection Sunday the remaining 20 conferences will have their tickets punched. Who will that be? Stay tuned!
Tennessee Basketball Ranked 4th In (Early) Preseason Top 25
A school built on football lure now has a thriving basketball team to get behind. In a early CBS basketball poll, the Volunteer squad is ranked 4th in the preseason. This should bring relief to a fan base whose struggled with a lackluster football team in recent years.
Under Coach Rick Barnes (SEC Coach of the year 2017) the Vols went 26-9 last year, won a share of the regular season SEC title and reached the final of the SEC tournament. Tennessee should return most of their pivotal pieces for the 2018-19 season.
Admiral Schofield (2017-2018 ALL SEC second teamer) who tested the NBA waters has returned for his senior year to play along side Grant Williams (SEC player of the year) and Kyle Alexander. If they can stay healthy along with the supporting cast, this team has a legitimate chance to reach the final four.
According to Andy Katz, “Tennessee is the team to beat in the SEC this year,” and did I mention Coach Barnes recruiting is nothing to take lightly. Recently committed 5 star combo guard, Josiah James added his name to the class of 2019 and pushed the Vols recruiting into the top 10 nationally.
Although it’s too early to tell how this season will play out its certain the hype is warranted and reaching heights it hasn’t seen since the Bruce Pearl era.
Could it be!? Tennessee – a basketball school?
Follow the journey when the Volunteers tip off against Louisiana Lafayette on November 9th.
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