Barring unforeseen chaos, Markelle Fultz will be the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday.
His detractors, however, have one simple question regarding the University of Washington product: How does the No. 1 pick in the draft only win nine games in college? Shouldn’t he have been able to will his team to more wins?
That’s a fair question, no?
“It is fair,” former Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I just think some of the guys that have been really successful and have won and been top draft prospects, maybe they had other pros with them that were pro-ready at the time, or they had older, experienced players on their team. I think Markelle, our team last year, it was kind of in-between – a year away from the team being much better – and it just so happened he was in that situation.”
Washington went 9-22 last season, including 2-16 in Pac-12 play. The Huskies started 9-9 but closed the season on a 13-game losing streak.
Doesn’t that reflect poorly on Fultz?
“Having coached him,” Romar said, “that’s the last worry that I would ever have is if he’s capable of winning. He was on the USA Basketball team last year and helped will his team to winning a gold medal.”
Fultz led the United States to the FIBA Americas U18 Championship in July 2016. Team USA beat Brazil, 88-48, in the semifinal and Canada, 83-66, in the final.
“I know that wasn’t a long season,” Romar said. “I know it wasn’t a college season. But he did some things to make sure that team won basketball games, and he was the MVP. He can win basketball games, and he will win games at the next level.”
Romar, now an assistant at Arizona, added that Fultz is a joy to be around.
“He is a passionate lover of the game of basketball,” Romar said. “He is very responsible young man. He is very humble, he has a great sense of humor, he just kind of fits in with wherever he is – he’s just a fun guy to be around. Great teammate. His teammates loved him, and it was fun coaching him.”
While Fultz is expected to go No. 1 to Philadelphia, Lonzo Ball is expected to go No. 2 to the Lakers. Many analysts feel that Ball’s game will translate well to the NBA, but Brandon Tierney has one concern: Ball doesn’t often beat people off the dribble. Is that an issue?
Romar doesn’t think so, for two main reasons: Ball can shoot, and Ball can pass.
“He was a really good shooter for UCLA,” Romar said. “I know it looks awkward. I know it looks different. But the ball goes in the basket. He’s just a little different in that he doesn’t always have to beat you off the dribble to make plays and do get guys the basketball. He just sees the floor so well, he has such a high basketball IQ – he has the ability to hit you with passes when you don’t even know you’re open. When he had the basketball in his hand, in coaching against UCLA, you’re looking at everyone. You’re not just looking at him. You’re just trying to see who is open, who could he possibly get this ball to because he’s so effective. He will be able to run an offense, he will be able to get his team in the offense, and I don’t think he has to have the ability to just constantly beat guys off the dribble to be effective.”