BOSTON: Markelle Fultz is a self-described hard worker and that diligence paid dividends Thursday (Friday in Manila) as the Philadelphia 76ers made him the first overall pick in the 2017 NBA entry draft.
The 76ers acquired the top pick in a trade with the Boston Celtics a week ago allowing them to move up and select the 19-year-old American.
“I figured out I had a chance to make it there (the NBA) probably in my 11th grade,” said Fultz, who played for the University of Washington Huskies last season. “I just realized that I was doing stuff that other kids weren’t doing and it just started to work out for me.”
The Los Angeles Lakers used the second pick to choose University of California Los Angeles point guard Lonzo Ball.
The choice of Fultz fits in nicely with Philadelphia’s rebuilding programme.
“I’m very excited really, just like the fans in Philly, how they back up their players and everything like that,” Fultz said. “And I’m just looking forward to going in there and giving it my all and hopefully changing the program around.”
The 19-year-old Fultz, who is the club’s fourth top overall pick, averaged 23.2 points, 5.9 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals over 25 games last season for a Huskies team that was 9-22.
He joins a young squad that features Australian forward Ben Simmons, another top draft pick who missed all of last season with a foot injury; Jahlil Okafor and 2017 NBA rookie of the year finalists Joel Embiid and Dario Saric.
That young core of talent is expected to provide a base to rebuild the team and if Fultz, Simmons and Embiid can stay healthy they could evolve into a solid big three.
Since 2003, the 76ers have won only one playoff series, and they have only one winning season since 2005. The Sixers went 28-54 last season.
The 19-year-old Ball had 14.6 points, 7.6 assists, 6.0 rebounds and 1.8 steals a game for the UCLA Bruins last season. No other US university player averaged 14 points with six rebounds and six assists a game as well.
Embiid tweets trash
Embiid fired the first salvo between the new-look 76ers and Lakers on Thursday night telling him teammate Simmons through social media to dunk on Ball.
“Please dunk on him so hard that his daddy runs on the court to save him,” Embiid tweeted in reference to Ball’s father, LaVar, who does most of the talking off the court for his son.
The Lakers used their third straight number two pick on Ball.
Ball was projected to be picked by the Lakers’ new front office of Hall of Famer Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka.
Ball’s father, LaVar, put on his Lakers hat even before the pick became official.
The Celtics used the third pick on Duke’s Jayson Tatum. The Suns picked fourth for the second straight year and selected Josh Jackson from Kansas. In his only season in college, Jackson averaged 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds.
Sacramento was the only team with two lottery picks. The Kings’ first pick at number five was guard De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky and they selected Zach Collins of Gonzaga at No. 10 with the pick obtained from New Orleans for DeMarcus Cousins.