For a moment, it appeared Markelle Fultz‘s rise would unravel almost as quickly as it began.

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After he awkwardly twisted his left knee late in DeMatha‘s nationally televised game against Sierra Canyon (Calif.) on Friday in Arizona, the Stags junior guard feared the worst as he lay on the floor. And though the diagnosis turned out to be a hyperextension, a hint of doubt remained with Fultz, who suffered the same injury last season.

But as Fultz has made perfectly clear since the summer, this isn’t last season. The guard returned the next day and responded by scoring a season-high 23 points in top-ranked DeMatha’s win against Shadow Mountain (Ariz.), an effort that helped him leave the Grand Canyon State with his latest offer from a top Division I team — the Arizona Wildcats.

“All of them are great for me,” said Fultz, who also holds more than 10 other offers from the likes of Maryland, Georgetown and Washington. “I’m just taking it all in and enjoying the moment. It really shows that hard work pays off.”

Fultz’s patience also went a long way. Aside from brief appearances in three varsity games late last year, the 6-foot-4 guard spent most of his sophomore campaign on the junior varsity squad. But Fultz remained focused, polishing his skills and heeding his coaches’ advice on how to prep his game for the varsity level.

Once the summer rolled around, Fultz used his AAU games with the D.C. Blue Devils and D.C. Premier to showcase his improvement — along with the four extra inches he had grown since the start of his sophomore season. Behind his versatility on both ends of the floor, a strong ability to get to the rim and an evolving mid-range jumper, Fultz turned the heads of several college coaches and landed offers even before he had ever started a varsity game.

“Playing in those tournaments really helped my confidence,” Fultz said. “Varsity is a lot faster and guys are more athletic, so I had to work on elevating on my shot and improving my defense.”

Fultz has wasted little time backing up the summertime hype. Against nationally ranked Chaminade (Mo.) at last month’s National Hoops Festival, the junior finished with 16 points, six rebounds and three assists in victory. In addition to being the team’s leading scorer at 14.1 points per game, Fultz has shown a defensive prowess that’s helped DeMatha endure a tough opening schedule in preparation for play in the always challenging WCAC.

“I love playing defense; it really gets me going,” Fultz said. “I feel like I can guard most positions and I just want to be able to do whatever I can to help my team.”

NUMBER CRUNCH: 3
Times that St. Andrew’s boys’ basketball team led during Saturday’s double-overtime game against St. Albans, but the Lions did just enough to hold off the Bulldogs for a 73-68 win.

BREAKFAST LINKS
-Highly touted Stonewall Jackson defensive lineman Tim Settle elected to stay close to home and committed to Virginia Tech during Friday’s Under Armour All-America Game.

Read about the experience of Dominion linebacker (and newly enrolled Clemson student) Chad Smith at the Army All-American Bowl Game.

Luka Garza continued his breakout sophomore campaign by scoring 25 points to lead Maret past McNamara in Saturday’s boys’ basketball action.

-Potomac School’s Cole Bransford held his own against runners from bigger schools by winning the 500-meter dash at the Southern Indoor Track Classic on Saturday.

PHOTOS FROM THE WEEKEND

VIDEO OF THE DAY
His words were poignant when he first delivered them in July, and in the wake of Stuart Scott’s death on Sunday following a long, courageous bout with cancer, his ESPYs speech should be required listening. Take some time out of your day to remember the man and be inspired by his legacy.
(h/t Anil Prashar)

WHAT TO WATCH FOR TODAY
Loudoun County at Tuscarora girls’ basketball, 6:15 p.m.
Both teams return from winter break and put their 8-1 records on the line in this pivotal matchup between western Loudoun foes.