Fulford to coach in Jordan Classic
HUNTINGTON -- When Huntington Prep boys basketball coach Rob Fulford was getting ready to become a father for the first time, there was only one name he could think of for his son.
"Jordan," Fulford said. "I actually wanted it to be Jordan Michael, but I didn't get that far."
The name is derived from Michael Jordan, whom Fulford considers the greatest basketball player of all time.
Now, Fulford will get to meet one of his idols while participating in one of the nation's premier high school basketball games.
Fulford, the Mullens, W.Va., native, will serve as head coach of the East team in the Jordan Brand Classic on April 13 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
"It's an honor to be selected to coach in the game," Fulford said. "Obviously, I'm a huge Jordan fan. My son is named after him and I've watched him for years on the court. That means a lot to me, and I get to coach Andrew (Wiggins) one last time, which is special."
Wiggins, the Huntington Prep star rated as the top college prospect, will be in the spotlight in the all-star game that is three days before the spring signing period opens. Wiggins made all of his visits and is expected to decide between Kentucky, Florida State, Kansas and North Carolina.
When asked previously about what it means to participate in the Jordan Brand Classic, Wiggins said he has been amazed by watching Jordan's career highlights but he is too young to have seen him in his prime.
Fulford said that's the difference in dynamic between players now and players a few years back. It's also a reason Fulford thinks his excitement will trump everyone's.
"I'll be more excited to meet him than the high school players," he said. "Those guys didn't get a chance to really see it and appreciate how he dominated the games. Obviously, LeBron (James) and Kobe (Bryant) are good players, but they aren't in that category."
Fulford said Jordan's impact on the game transcends the sports aspect. He got the ball rolling with young athletes in the sports market and paved the way for young players to get the exposure they do today.
This month, Wiggins joined Simeon (Ill.) H.S.'s Jabari Parker -- a Duke commit -- on the cover of Slam Magazine in a cover with the headline "Young Money."
The opportunity to be "Young Money", according to Fulford, started in the mid-80s when everyone wanted to "Be Like Mike."
"He took it to another level marketing-wise," Fulford said. "He springboarded the camps and exposure for younger kids in the game. All the exposure that kids are getting now results from the framework of what Jordan started back in the day."
For Fulford personally, being named as head coach of the prestigious game has plenty of meaning.
Fulford is from Mullens, a small West Virginia town with a big basketball tradition -- especially in the coaching ranks.
"Just this week, Lewis D'Antoni, Sr., threw up the jump ball for the 100th West Virginia Boys Basketball Tournament," Fulford said. "And everyone knows what (Los Angeles Lakers head coach) Mike D'Antoni and Dan D'Antoni have done in the pros. Add in (former Marshall coach) Greg White, (former Marshall assistant) and current UCF assistant) Shawn Finney and Concord's Kent McBride and Mullens is rich in coaching tradition.
"There's a great coaching pedigree from Mullens and for me to be able to continue that is humbling. I'm coaching at the highest level of high school basketball and I'm proud to be from this state and coaching in the game."
Fulford and Wiggins' involvement adds to the national exposure Huntington Prep has received.
On Wednesday morning, Huntington Prep's team was at the Capitol being recognized by the West Virginia Legislature.
Player and coaches met with the Senate and the House of Delegates, who presented a resolution recognizing their efforts.
The Express played in two nationally-televised contests and were ranked No. 1 in the country for nearly half the year.
The Jordan Brand Classic and the upcoming McDonald's All-American Game, which Wiggins will also participate in on April 3, offer more spotlight.
"That puts us on the forefront," Fulford said. "This will be the third time for Huntington Prep to get national exposure and the fourth for Andrew with the McDonald's game. We hope that people start to recognize us and that starts here in the state by representing our state and making our state proud."