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.