A sore right knee sidelined Markelle Fultz the past two games, but he returned Thursday for the Huskies.
Ebony Fultz flew 2,800 miles from Maryland to Seattle with daughter Shauntese and they sat together in the front row at Alaska Airlines Arena – perhaps a telltale sign Markelle Fultz was ready to return from a two-game layoff due to a sore right knee.
His mother and sister arrived early Thursday and watched as the Huskies point guard strolled on the floor for warmups. He joked briefly with teammates and the sight of the 6-foot-5 freshman star in his his gold No. 20 jersey sent a buzz through the building.
The Washington men’s basketball team had its star back on the court, which was reason to smile for a program that’s experienced very few happy moments during a disappointing season.
Whether Fultz, a projected top pick in the 2017 NBA draft, would play or possibly sit out the rest of the season had been the biggest storyline heading into UW’s game against Arizona State. Well, maybe the second biggest storyline.
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The overriding theme this season has been coach Lorenzo Romar’s job status and the remarkable collapse of the Huskies despite the presence of the sublimely talented Futlz, who is arguably the finest player in school history.
If Fultz maintains his Pac-12 leading 23.2 points per game, he’ll rank second in school history for highest scoring average behind UW great Bob Houbregs who averaged 25.6 in 1952-53.
Fultz has 138 assists and is on pace to finish with 168 in the regular season, which would place him fifth on UW’s single-season assists list. He’s had 17 20-point games and five 30-point outings.
Fultz is the only Division I NCAA averaging at least 20 points, six assists and six rebounds and yet the Huskies are seven games under .500 at 9-16. They’re 11th in the Pac-12 at 2-11.
In Washington’s first game against Arizona State – an 86-74 defeat at Wells Fargo Arena on Jan. 25 – Fultz had one of his best outings of the season and finished with 28 points on 11-for-23 shooting, nine assists, eight rebounds and two steals in 39 minutes.