How quickly two years fly by. It was only then that Markelle Fultz attended Steph Curry’s basketball camp in the Bay Area.
Fultz stood out to Curry, who recognized the teenager’s promising talent. In the time since that camp, Fultz became the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA draft.
“You knew right away what kind of potential he had in the league,” Curry said to NBC Sports Philadelphia Saturday at Golden State's shootaround.
There will be no matchup between teacher and student this season, though. Fultz is out because of a right shoulder injury and will miss the Sixers’ two games against the Warriors, both of which are scheduled in November.
When the Sixers played in Oakland last weekend, Curry wanted to make sure he still talked to the rookie. Get healthy. Don’t lose confidence. Ignore the outside noise, the two-time championship winner and MVP encouraged.
“The hardest thing is dealing with people’s expectations and the hype around you,” Curry said. “I don’t even know what it’s like being a No. 1 pick and having to deal with that. That’s part of the learning curve too. Hopefully, he’ll be able to keep his confidence through all this.”
Fultz’s rookie year hasn’t started out smoothly. He suffered soreness and scapular muscle imbalance in his right shoulder early in the season. Fultz missed the majority of the preseason and played his first four games off the bench before he was ruled out indefinitely Oct. 29. At the time, the Sixers approximated a reevaluation three weeks from then, which is Sunday. Fultz was averaging 6.0 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 19.0 minutes prior to being sidelined.
Curry, though, saw in Fultz what the Sixers saw when they traded up to acquire the No. 1 pick from the Celtics. The team’s vision was for Fultz to complement Ben Simmons off the ball. As a freshman at Washington, he averaged 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists while leading the Pac-12 and all freshmen in scoring.
“He’s just a great basketball player,” Curry said. “Obviously he’s quick. He’s athletic, he can shoot, he can play above the rim, he’s got the full package. I’m sure that’ll show as soon as he gets fully healthy and learns the ropes of the NBA.”
Curry can relate to Fultz. He is no stranger to battling injuries himself. Before Curry was dominating the NBA, he underwent ankle procedures and played only 26 games in his third season. He proved there can be a new chapter after being sidelined, one that’s better than the first.
“Just be patient because this doesn’t define you,” Curry said. “It’s not the ideal way to start, but he’s going to be in good shape if he takes the necessary precautions to get fully 100 percent and understand he has a long career. He’s still young so this will be a distant memory very soon, the injury battle that really a lot of people have to go through, so he’s not alone.”
Curry has high expectations for Fultz in the NBA. He may have to wait another season to compete against him, but Curry will be looking forward to seeing how the 19-year-old develops and improves until then.
"It’s kind of cool seeing guys that I got to see before they even got to college show out and do what they do and now get to play against them in the league," Curry said.