If you believe the NBA draft analysts, Washington Huskies freshman Markelle Fultz will either be the No. 1 overall pick this summer and selected by Boston or he’ll be taken No. 2 and going to the Los Angeles Lakers.
If you believe the NBA draft analysts, Huskies freshman Markelle Fultz will either be the No. 1 overall pick this summer and selected by the Boston Celtics or he’ll be taken No. 2 and going to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Either way, Fultz isn’t likely to remain with the Washington men’s basketball team for much longer.
“Him and I haven’t discussed that at length,” coach Lorenzo Romar said when asked if he believes Fultz will return next season. “It’s January — almost February — and that’s something that we’ll talk about later.”
Washington closes the first half of the Pac-12 season at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Arizona State (9-11). The Huskies (9-10) are tied with the Sun Devils for ninth in the conference at 2-5.
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It’s a disappointing circumstance for the Huskies considering Fultz — the No. 7 overall incoming recruit according to ESPN and UW’s highest-ranked prospect ever — has been better than advertised.
The 6-foot-4 guard leads the Pac-12 with 23.4 points per game. He’s first on the team and second in the conference in assists, averaging 6.1. And his 5.8 rebounding average is second among UW players and 19th in the league.
“He understands and plays the point-guard position better than anyone I’ve ever seen in this conference,” said Don MacLean, a former UCLA great who is a Pac-12 Networks analyst. “Go back and tell me who’s done it better? You can’t. At least, I can’t think of anyone.
“He’s doing things as a freshman that most guys in the (NBA) don’t learn until their second or third year. He’s incredible.”
Fultz is in the midst of a three-game scoring spree unlike any in recent program history. He’s the first Husky during Romar’s 15-season tenure to score 30 points in three straight games, including 34 against Stanford, 37 in overtime versus Colorado and 30 against Utah.
“I remember Brandon (Roy) scoring 30 and 35 in back to back, first two conference games,” Romar said. “That’s probably the closest to it. Isaiah Thomas has had some (good) games back to back. Markelle has just been all over the place.”
And yet, barring a dramatic turnaround, the Huskies will miss the NCAA tournament for the sixth straight year – an obvious point of contention with UW fans, including a vocal contingent who would like to see a change in coaching.
When asked how can Fultz be so good and the Huskies be so bad, Romar provided a candid assessment.
“We’re not playing good defense,” he said. “Pretty simple to me. We’re not guarding on a consistent basis. We’re also a very young team that hasn’t figured out how to pull out close games yet.”
To Romar’s first point, UW ranks 11th in the Pac-12 in points allowed (79.3) and defensive field-goal percentage (.449).
And to Romar’s second point, Washington is 3-5 in games decided by 10 points or less and 2-8 when trailing at halftime.
Whatever problems plague the Huskies, Romar insisted Fultz isn’t one of them.
“Anyone that wants to entertain the thought for a second that Markelle Fultz isn’t doing enough or try to put it on him — I’ll just say you’re wrong,” Romar said. “He’s trying to do within his power everything he can do to help this team.
“Does that mean he’s perfect? Does he get beat on defense? Does he have his lapses? Yes.”
Fultz is far from infallible. Even though he shoots 49.2 percent from the field and 41.7 percent on three-pointers, his inconsistency at the free-throw line, where he averages 68.2 percent, has been a liability.
Fultz also averages a league-high 3.1 turnovers.
“He’s not a perfect robot,” Romar said. “He’s human. He’s going to make mistakes just like anyone else. He’s a freshman.
“He’s not an upperclassman that’s been through this. So he’s going to make mistakes. But is it due to a lack of want-to or trying? No. He’s doing everything in his power right now. We have to be able to guard better. We have to be able to finish games.”
Or as UW guard David Crisp said: “Markelle is playing at this incredible level and we, myself included, have to get to his level.”