Rob Fulford has been around the block. He assembled outstanding teams at Mountain State Academy for four seasons before leaving for start-up Huntington Prep. Operating out of St. Joseph’s High School in Huntington, the athletes are St. Joseph’s students by day, Huntington Prep players by night. Seems like an odd format to the common eye, but it has worked. There have been zero problems with the NCAA clearinghouse and the team has won. Fulford has assembled a plethora of high-major players over his three years at the helm for Huntington Prep, though none brighter than the best 17-year old in the world, Andrew Wiggins.
We sat down with Fulford to talk about what it’s like coaching Wiggins, what his star pupil needs to work on, and the strides he’s made as a player over the last two years.
CityLeagueHoops: What is it like coaching a player like that [Andrew Wiggins] who just blows you away with something every day on the court?
Rob Fulford: You are right, he does something daily that blows me away. Like today, you got to see him and X (Xavier Rathan-Mayes) go at it for a while. The one thing with Andrew is that he’ll coast for a while until he doesn’t have to coast, or he gets pushed a little bit and he turns it on. He’s really easy to coach because he’s very humble and he wants to get better. Does he have bad habits? Absolutely. He’s a 17-year old kid. I’d love for him to give 120% all of the time, but he’s still a kid. Again, he’s so gifted that he has that “on/off” switch. I’d love for his help side defense to get better and I’d love for him to compete 120% all the time. From a basketball standpoint though, he’s so easy to coach because he’s so humble and wants to be coached.
CityLeagueHoops: In the two years that you’ve been working with Andrew every day, what areas have his game have you seen the most improvement in?
RF: His ball handling and his jump shot. The athletic ability has always been there. He’s really gotten his handle tighter this year and has gotten stronger when he gets in the lane. Those things don’t bother him as much as they used to. The improvement has really come in his jump shot, though. What separates him from other guys is that he’s so quick and he can get it off anytime he wants. If he’s hitting jump shots, he’s unguardable.
CityLeagueHoops: I haven’t seen Andrew since the Nike Global Challenge in July and immediately noticed that he was posting up a bit more. Is that something that you guys have been working on?
RF: On Tuesdays and Thursdays now, we do breakdown drills and post our guards a lot. With Andrew being as big as he is, he’s more comfortable now since he’s gotten a lot stronger. He doesn’t mind going down there and banging. The way that he went at Julius Randle in the EYBL…Julius Randle is a beast, man. Julius was chest bumping him the whole game, and Andrew took it without ever backing down. It wasn’t that Andrew outplayed him that much, but it was just a matter of the way he played him that shocked everyone. He wouldn’t have done that last year because he didn’t have the strength to do it. Obviously he’s improved in other areas of his game, but his strength, handle, and jump-shot are the main areas.
CityLeagueHoops: Now one area of Andrew’s game that scouts have been talking about is his potential on the defensive end. He’s given us flashes of being a lockdown defender, but not on a consistent basis. Talk a little about his potential defensively.
RF: He’s so long, and both his footwork and handspeed are really good. He can absolutely be a lockdown defender. I think that’s the area that he needs to take the Jordan mentality of ‘your ass is not scoring on me.’ He has it in spurts, but he needs to have it all the time. Obviously, he’s going to be a pro. I always like to tell him ‘You’re going to be a pro, but it’s up to you how much money you make.’ I think that if he gets it [defensively] and takes pride in really being a lockdown guy, because he has the tools to do it, he can be like Kobe or LeBron defensively. I would hope that when he gets to that level, Kobe or LeBron would reach out to him because he’s going to be that big name. I hope they’d reach out to him, take him under their wing, and say ‘This is how it’s going to be, young fella.’ He’s going to be special though.