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Why Markelle Fultz Could Take Washington deep into March

Markelle Fultz, Washington University’s heralded incoming freshman, is a truly special player and could take Washington to the top.

High School Basketball: McDonald's All-American Portraits Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Pac-12, while having some great basketball teams and players in the past, has never really been regarded as a “basketball conference” like the ACC or the Big East of the past. That doesn’t mean that teams out west can’t get top talent, however. Markelle Fultz, the 7th-highest rated recruit in ESPN’s class of 2016 rankings, signed his letter of intent with Washington, and instantly improved UDub’s squad.

Fultz is a special player. That’s really the only way to put it. What makes him so special? Well, let’s break it down.

First, the dude was simply built to be a point guard in 2016. At 6’5 in shoes with a 6’10 wingspan (measurements according to DraftExpress.com), Fultz has the size and length to play, and defend, both guard positions, which is an ever-important trait as basketball starts to move towards a positionless-freeflowing future. He wears a size 15 shoe (!!!!), and his hands are huge. Not quite Kawhi Leonard huge, but they’re crazy big. He has almost grown about an inch in the past 5 months, so the guy could still be growing. He has all the physical traits to be a great player.

Fultz is not a Russell Westbrook-type athlete, but he is more than athletic enough. I mean, look at this...

That’s what I call bounce.

Markelle does just fine on the defensive end, and his length and agility will help him to be a well above average defender at U Dub, but where he really shines is on the offensive end of the floor. Simply put, Markelle Fultz, at this stage of his career, is a totally complete offensive player. His top speed is up there with the best in the college game, and it will only improve at Washington with an improved strength and conditioning program than he got at his high school, DeMatha Catholic in Maryland. But what separates Markelle from the rest of the pack (Pac?) is in his ability to change pace. Markelle is a smooth athlete, but he plays a herky-jerky style of basketball that always keeps the defense guessing. Because he is such a smooth player, he is able to pull off hesitation moves and chop his feet and explode out of a cut better than anyone else in the class of 2016. Watch these two clips, and watch how easily and quickly Markelle is able to explode, then stop, and then explode out again.

That second gif is from the U-18 FIBA World Championships, where Fultz was named MVP.

In those clips, you saw how Fultz uses his quickness in different ways, a very good sign for his future. In the first gif, Markelle is in a simple half-court set, as the primary ballhandler, which is where he really shines. Markelle attacks his defender at speed, hesitates, crosses over, and then pulls up for a nice mid-range jumpshot. It’s a pretty simple isolation play, but then you juxtapose that gif to the second one, where he uses almost the same move in a transition setting leading to a layup, you start to understand how complete his game is.

Markelle can score outside of a hesitation move as well. He can score in the post, as shown here:

Fultz can really utilize his height and length in the post, as smaller guards won’t be able to contend with his high release point. Fultz also has excellent footwork in the post. He hops on the catch, not yet establishing a pivot foot, which, of course, allows him more flexibility with his next move. He then pivots, spins, and then fades back to his right, keeping his feet underneath him so that he can launch right into his shot without compromising his mechanics.

Markelle Fultz’s best comparison would probably be D’Angelo Russell at this point. They are both creative with their feet and handles, they can both score in any way in any situation, and they can both pass with some flair. Where Markelle doesn’t quite match up with Russell is in their shooting. Markelle, while he has a reliable jump shot, can’t really be called a “shooter” quite yet. His primary scoring source will come from finishing around the rim at Washington, but his jump shot will not hold him back in any way.

Get excited, Washington fans. Y’all got a good one. Markelle could be simply perfect for the college game. He can straight get buckets. And you all saw where that got Kemba Walker and the UConn Huskies. Or John Wall and Kentucky. Or any scoring ball handler in the college to be honest. When you have a player who can just get a basket whenever he needs to, the sky is the limit. Markelle Fultz will not be at Washington for more than a year most likely, but it could be a very, very special year.