The first round of the 2017 NBA Draft was bookended by a pair of local products – Upper Marlboro’s Markelle Fultz and Silver Spring native Josh Hart.
The Philadelphia 76ers selected Fultz, a 2016 DeMatha graduate, with the first overall selection. Fultz, who attended James Madison Middle School in Upper Marlboro, became the first Prince George’s County product to ever be selected No. 1 overall.
“It is with great Prince George’s County pride that I congratulate Upper Marlboro’s very own Markelle Fultz on becoming the top pick in the 2017 NBA Draft,” Prince George’s County Councilman Mel Franklin said in a news release. “Markelle’s work ethic and determination are a result of his outstanding character and the wonderful influence of his family, especially his mother, Ebony Fultz, and the community that nurtured him. Markelle overcame being cut from his high school basketball team as a sophomore to become the country’s most sought after college talent. In three and a half years’ time, Markelle went from being a junior varsity high school basketball player to the top pick in the NBA Draft. Markelle, Prince George’s County congratulates you. We celebrate your incredible successes and are excited about the promise of your next great steps in the NBA. May God bless and guide your future, for the best is yet to come.”
Fultz also became the Hyattsville private school’s 23rd NBA draft pick and joined an elite group of DeMatha alums currently competing in the league including Jerami Grant, Jerian Grant, Victor Oladipo and Quinn Cook.
Adrian Dantley, Kenny Carr, Hawkeye Whitney, Danny Ferry, Jerrod Mustaf and Joseph Forte are among the program’s first round picks.
Ferry and Oladipo were No. 2 overall picks but Fultz became the school’s first No. 1 overall draft selection and joined a list of DMV area greats that includes Landon product Fred Hetzel along with Elgin Baylor, Austin Carr and David Robinson who were each selected No. 1 overall.
At DeMatha, Fultz, a 2016 McDonald’s All-American, stands alone in a class by himself.
“We are all extremely proud of him,” said Mustaf, a University of Maryland product who was selected 17th overall by the New York Knicks in the 1990 NBA Draft.
Prince George’s County native Walt “The Wizard” Williams was the seventh overall pick by the Sacramento Kings in the 1992 NBA Draft.
Williams, a Montgomery County resident and former standout at the University of Maryland, has a unique connection to Fultz. He graduated from Crossland High School in 1988 with Ebony Fultz, Markelle’s mother.
“She was always a nice person even in high school,” said Williams. “It’s awesome to see her family going through this.”
Antoine “Lumpy” Wills, a former Kennedy High School standout, is a first cousin to Ebony.
Wills, who played in the 1995 Capital Classic, said Fultz has shown drastic improvement over the years but the best is yet to come.
As a 5-foot-9-inch sophomore, Fultz was cut from DeMatha’s varsity basketball team and played on the junior varsity squad instead.
However, Fultz, who had a six-inch growth spurt that summer, rose to prominence during his junior campaign at DeMatha when he averaged 16.5 points per game and was named the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference Player of the Year.
“He always had those big feet,” said Wills. “You knew it was a matter of time before his body caught up with his feet. His work ethic is crazy.”
Meanwhile, Hart, who was selected by the Los Angeles Lakers with the final pick in the first round, became the first Sidwell Friends graduate ever selected in the NBA Draft.
“Awesome,” Sidwell Friends head coach Eric Singletary texted me on draft night. “What a blessing.”
Hart, who spent his freshman campaign at Wheaton High before transferring to Sidwell, could make an immediate impact as a rookie in Los Angeles.
Mujahid Sharief Hashim, Hart’s head coach at Wheaton, posted an old Wheaton High School varsity boys basketball team photo on his Facebook page.
“I think we were doing something right at Wheaton High School,” wrote Hashim.
It’s hard to make an argument against him in that regard. Go Wheaton Knights!