BOSTON – If the Celtics do as expected and take Markelle Fultz with the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft, the 19-year-old will find himself in an unfamiliar position.
Since bursting onto the national landscape as a high school junior, Fultz has fought to cement a place for himself as one of the game’s best players among his peers.
In Boston, he’ll be fighting for something else: playing time.
The 6-foot-4 guard will join a Celtics roster that’s stuffed with backcourt talent, some of which will likely not be around by the time he would arrive in the fall.
But even if the Celtics were to trim a roster spot or two in the backcourt, the fight for minutes will still be great.
While it’s far too soon to say how much Fultz would play as a rookie, his high school coach Mike Jones doesn’t believe his former pupil will have a hard time adjusting to whatever role he has been cast to play.
“He wants to win so whatever, whoever he plays for, if it’s Boston and they decide Markelle, ‘this is the role we need you to play in order for us to be a championship contender or a championship team,’ Markelle's going to embrace that and do as well as he can,” Jones said in an exclusive interview with CSN. “I would never bet against him, in terms of whether or not he’s going to play.”
MORE ON FULTZ
- Markelle Fultz is officially retweeting stuff about him playing for the Celtics
- Kevin O’Connor: Why Markelle Fultz earns No. 1 overall ranking
- How would Isaiah Thomas work with Markelle Fultz?
If anything, seeing limited time will only make him work harder to get on the floor.
Jones, who has been a coach with Team USA, in addition to coaching Victor Oladipo in high school, has seen first-hand how Fultz responds to adversity.
As a sophomore at DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Maryland, Fultz tried out for varsity but did not make the team.
Fultz was just 5-foot-9 at the time. Jones said he had not yet to hit his growth spurt which was a big factor in why he cut him.
“Obviously with the talent that he had, we did not want to have him basically playing sparse minutes on the varsity level,” Jones said. “We figured that if he played on the JV level with some really good players he would have an opportunity to really grow into a leadership role and that's exactly what he did. That was probably one of the best JV teams we've ever had in our school’s history and Markelle was definitely the catalyst for everything they did. So much so that when we moved him up to the varsity level at the end of the season, he hit the ground running. There was no adjustment needed, and obviously, he was the best player in the DC area, he was the player of the year.”
His play on the junior varsity level got the attention of many, including an assistant coach at the University of Washington, who was passing by at the time but took note of Fultz and began to recruit him afterward.
Fultz, who played at the Washington for one season, learned how to handle initial setbacks, without allowing it to affect his own growth as a player – an important quality for a player taken as high as he will be, in joining a team like the Celtics that’s among the best teams in the NBA.
“No matter who or what guards are on the Boston Celtics roster, Markelle is able to play on the ball, off the ball, he’s able to play with other really good players, and I think that’s going to be something that’s definitely to his advantage. A lot of other guys are going to have that adjustment; he’s not going to.”