Potential No. 1 NBA draft pick Markelle Fultz says goodbye to the Huskies after one season on Montlake.
Washington freshman guard Markelle Fultz ended his collegiate career and will enter the NBA draft.
Fultz, who is a probable No. 1 overall pick, released a video on his Twitter account Friday saying goodbye to UW Husky fans.
“It’s been an honor to play in front of you and I really appreciate all of the support you guys have given me,” he said. “After sitting down with my mom and the coaching staff I’ve made the decision to enter the NBA draft.
“Although the season hasn’t gone as planned, it’s really truly been a blessing to be here and I’ve learned plenty of life lessons on and off the court, especially from Coach Ro (Lorenzo Romar) and his coaching staff. I’m always going to be a Husky for life. Go Dawgs.”
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Fultz’s 23.3 scoring average led the Pac-12 and ranks second in Washington history for a single season. He also set a UW freshman record with 579 points. In addition, he averaged 5.9 assists, 5.7 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks.
“The last three years of Markelle Fultz’s basketball career have been nothing short of amazing,” Romar said in a statement released by UW. “He has made one of the quickest improvements of any athlete I’ve seen in a long time. Markelle has decided to enter the NBA Draft and we totally support his decision.
“We appreciate him giving his all, on and off the court, while he was part of our program and I will enjoy watching him play for many years to come. Even though he was only here for a short time, I truly believe he will be a Husky for life and that started before he even enrolled at UW as he went and supported our women’s team last year in the postseason in Maryland. We wish him the best of luck and look forward to following what will likely be an exciting career.”
Fultz leaves behind a complicated legacy.
Statistically, he lived up to the hype of a highly touted prep All-American from DeMatha Catholic High who was ranked the No. 7 recruit nationally by ESPN in the 2016 class.
Fultz led Washington in scoring in 20 of the 25 games he played and tallied at least 30 points six times, including a personal-best 37 during an 85-83 overtime win against Colorado. In eight games, he also came close to becoming the first player in UW history to record a triple double.
Once the draft evaluation kicks into high gear, Fultz will need to convince would-be suitors (Boston currently owns the No. 1 pick) that a sore right knee that caused him to miss six of the last eight games will not be a long-term problem.
The superstar guard, who was a first-team all-Pac-12 selection, will likely face questions about why the Huskies (9-22, 2-16 Pac-12) didn’t win more games with arguably one of the best players in the history of the program. Washington finished the season with a school record 13-game losing streak and its 22 defeats ties for the most ever at UW.
Those questions – and the Huskies’ six-year NCAA tournament drought – will certainly be topics of discussion when Romar meets with athletic director Jen Cohen likely next week when he returns from the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas. The Huskies’ season ended Wednesday following a 78-73 defeat to USC in the first round of the conference touney.
“We plan to thoroughly evaluate all aspects of the program at the conclusion of the season,” Cohen said in a statement from UW.
A decision on Romar’s job status could be announced as early as next week.
The UW coach, who earns $1.7 million annually, has three years remaining on a contract that expires in 2020. If he’s released, the school would have to pay him a $3.2M buyout. UW assistants Raphael Chillious and Will Conroy each have two-year contracts that expire in the offseason while assistant Michael Porter Sr. has a season remaining on a two-year deal deal that pays him $300,000 annually.
If the top of the roster remains intact for the 2017-18 season, sophomore guard David Crisp will be Washington’s leading returning scorer who averaged 13.5 points. Sophomore forward Noah Dickerson (12.4) and sophomore guard Matisse Thybulle (10.3) also averaged double-digit scoring.
The Huskies bring in a 2017 class that’s ranked No. 3 in the nation by ESPN and includes top-rated prospect Michael Porter Jr., the 6-10 forward who led Nathan Hale to a Class 3A state title and 29-0 record. Garfield High guards Daejon Davis and Jaylen Nowell and Blake Harris, a guard from North Carolina, are also included among ESPN’s top 100 recruits.
Like Fultz, Porter will likely play just one season at Washington because he’s already tabbed as the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA draft.
Fultz joins a long list of UW players under Romar who left early and were chosen in the NBA draft including: Marquese Chriss, Dejounte Murray, Isaiah Thomas, Terrence Ross, Spencer Hawes, Nate Robinson and Tony Wroten Jr.
Ironically, the Huskies never played in the NCAA tournament with one-and-done players such as Fultz, Chris, Murray, Hawes and Wroten.