Today is Todd Fuller’s 42nd Birthday. Only the most crazy of Utah Jazz fans who weren’t in high school / college during the late 90s may not remember him in a Jazz jersey as he only played in Utah during the lock-out shortened season. But I’m putting the cart before the horse here.
Fuller is a North Carolinian through an through. He went to high school in Charlotte, North Carolina; and went on to star at N.C. State where he would log over 3,000 minutes there. As a senior he averaged 20.9 ppg and 9.9 rpg. He was an inside / outside threat with averages of .506 / .372 / .799 in his final year before going pro. As a 6’11 bigman with a nice touch he was Ambrosia for Golden State Warriors boss Don Nelson, who snatched him up with the 11th pick in the 1996 NBA Draft.
Sadly, he would play the least total NBA minutes out of all of the lotto picks in that draft -- and end up being someone that history remembers as trivia as a player selected before Vitaly Potapenko (#12), Kobe Bryant (#13), Peja Stojakovic (#14), Steve Nash (#15), Jermaine O’Neal (#17), Zydrunas Ilgauskas (#20), and Derek Fisher (#24).
You can isolate every draft class and play “Hindsight is 20/20,” so I’m not going to blame Fuller for being picked high. But history will remember him as a draft bust mainly because he was picked ahead of some guys who would end up in the Hall of Fame. (A decade or two from now we Jazzfans may feel the same way about the Trey Burke draft . . . if you don’t already.)
Fuller played in Golden State, but after two lackluster seasons they traded him away to the Utah Jazz for a future 2nd rounder (who would turn into Chris Porter). With the Jazz he was joining a team in “win now” mode having gone to the NBA Finals in back-to-back years (1997, 1998 — if you somehow forgot).
He joined a team that already had bigmen Karl Malone, Greg Ostertag, Adam Keefe, Thurl Bailey, Greg Foster, and Anthony Avent. Not having Antoine Carr on the team anymore meant that there were minutes to be had for someone good enough to make a claim on that rotation spot. Fuller, with his face-up abilities, could have been that guy. Just not on head coach Jerry Sloan’s watch! (Zero three point attempts.)
He would make the playoff roster and play 10.5 mpg for a Jazz team that would go on to defeat the Sacramento Kings in five games only to fall to the Portland Trail Blazers in the second round. During the NBA Playoffs he did get on the floor but averaged only 2.6 ppg and 2.8 rpg. He was a non-factor but the cost of trading for him was very low.
After the Jazz he would play for the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat in the NBA before going all around the world — making stops in Spain (4x), Poland, Greece, and Australia! He’s an airline pilot who had a hand in making the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport win an award in 2008, is a high school math teacher, and helps identify which student athletes receive N.C. State University scholarships. Furthermore, his Wikipedia article decides the need to tell us about his views on Sex Education. So, yeah. I don’t know if that’s needed for a Phi Beta Kappa guy who declined a Rhodes Scholarship.
I was not able to find him on twitter, but if you know him tell him we wish him Happy Birthday!