January 9th, 2018 10:21 AM
OPRF senior guard Isaiah Fuller has shown a knack for playing his best basketball in big games this season. (File photo)
Isaiah Fuller led the Oak Park and River Forest High School boys basketball team to its first big win of the season when they beat crosstown rival Fenwick 64-59 at the Chicago Elite Classic on Dec. 1. Fuller scored a game-high 19 points and dished out six assists, enabling the Huskies to secure neighborhood bragging rights for the first time in five years against the highly regarded Friars.
Now Fuller is trying to earn an even more impressive and elusive accolade — the right to claim he's the best Fuller to ever play for OPRF. Fuller's brother and mother both had successful athletic careers with the Huskies.
Connor Fuller, a 6-foot-2 forward who graduated in 2016, now plays for Black Hawk College in Moline. On OPRF's Wall of Fame, meanwhile, a plaque with Lorie Fuller's name honors her as one of the school's greatest swimmers.
Isaiah is trying to be better than both, and he's making his case on the court.
Fuller has led the Huskies to a 10-2 record (3-0 in the West Suburban Conference Silver Division) and the 13th spot in the state basketball rankings.
Fuller is having a fine senior campaign, averaging 15.5 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game.
However, His primary role is being the Huskies' floor general, rather than stat-sheet stuffer.
"My role this year as the point guard is to lead defensively and offensively — the team goes as I go," Fuller said. "I have to set the tempo on both ends of the court. I have to be a vocal leader and lead by example."
Fuller's leadership style was evident at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament.
Going into the prestigious tourney, OPRF was without their second-leading scorer, junior guard Dashon Enoch, who was out with a concussion. Without Enoch, the Huskies leaned on Fuller even more.
He didn't disappoint.
The Huskies had no trouble with Lockport in the first round of the tournament, beating the Porters 77-56 behind Fuller's game-high 23 points on 10-for-12 shooting. He also grabbed four rebounds and dished out three assists.
And as the competition ramped up, Fuller elevated his game. When OPRF faced 7th-ranked Bloomington in the second round, Fuller scored 24 points — including seven within the final five minutes — to help OPRF pull out a nail-biting 61-60 victory.
Fuller then had 13 points and four boards in the semifinals against fourth-ranked Curie, but it wasn't enough to put the Huskies in the championship game, as they lost 42-39.
Although the tournament didn't end the way Fuller would have liked, his stellar play earned him a unanimous selection to the Pontiac All-Tournament Team.
"That meant a lot to me," Fuller said. "It was a real humble experience to represent my team, family, school and myself. My team helped me a lot in getting that [award]. I think I stepped my game up at Pontiac knowing that Dashon wouldn't be playing."
Entering the second half of the season, Fuller has his sights set on a winning a Class 4A state championship.
At 6-2 and 170 pounds, he is rangy and quick with excellent defensive ability. He's also a very capable playmaker and scorer.
"Isaiah has improved his game in many facets," OPRF coach Matt Maloney said. "He's developed from a sophomore guard, who was fast but needed polish, to a senior who is shooting close to 50 percent from behind the arc, making better decisions with the ball and usually guarding the opposition's best player."
"As a sophomore, Isaiah struggled to guard the ball, but now has blossomed into one of the top ball defenders in the state," Maloney added. "Moreover, he wouldn't even attempt a shot outside of the paint two years ago, but he has worked on stretching the floor and is now one of our top shooters."
Currently, he has one offer to play basketball at Northern Michigan University. Other Division II and III schools have shown interest.
"I would love to play at the next level," Fuller said.