BOSTON (CBS)– Celtics head coach Brad Stevens studies the game of basketball like few others. So it should come as no surprise that he is doing a little extra homework on potential top-overall pick Markelle Fultz.
While Stevens has likely joined Danny Ainge and his staff for a few film sessions on Fultz, the C’s head coach also wanted to get to know the 19-year-old off of the court. To get an in-depth feel for Fultz’ study habits, Stevens reached out to Joan Phalen, the assistant director of academic support at DeMatha Catholic High School in Maryland, where Fultz starred before becoming the NBA’s top prospect at Washington last year.
The call from Stevens surprised Phalen, who spoke with The Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach about her chat with the Celtics head coach.
“I had a wonderful conversation with Brad Stevens,” said Phalen. “He was so interested in how Markelle learns, and I just thought that was an amazing concept for a coach to be interested in and concerned about. We had a great conversation.”
Phalen said Stevens was interested in Fultz’ personality, most notably how the young player handles disappointment in the class room. They also discussed Fultz’ eagerness to learn, which was a unique trait for such a highly-touted athlete.
“It is unbelievably rare,” Phalen said of Fultz, who asked to meet with her hours before school began and on weekends on numerous occasions. “Often people would say to me, ‘Are you kidding me?’ And I’d say, ‘Listen, when a student shows that much interest in getting better and becoming an academic achiever, if I ever say no to that, that’s ridiculous.'”
She appreciated the phone call from Stevens because it showed the coach’s interest in Markelle Fultz the person, and not just the basketball prospect.
Phalen just so happens to be a native of Norwood, MA, so she’s very much hoping the Celtics call out Fultz’ name with the first overall pick next week in Brooklyn. Surprisingly, she said she hasn’t talked to her family of Celtics fans (who remain in Massachusetts) about the future star, and is hoping she can do so when he dons on a Boston hat next Thursday night.
The Phoenix Suns, who own the fourth overall pick in the NBA Draft, were the only other team to reach out to Phalen about Fultz.