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Markelle Fultz’s mentor wanted him to come to Sixers long before trade took place

NCAA Basketball: Oregon at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Though the Sixers haven’t officially confirmed Markelle Fultz will be the pick at No. 1, it’s safe to assume they didn’t trade into that spot for anybody else. We’ll only get to know some of the reasons they thought it was the right move to do, but you can bet there are behind-the-scenes things that took place beyond their impression of Fultz’s game.

Could some of that have to do with pressure from Fultz’s camp? If you read Kent Babb’s new profile of Fultz for the Washington Post, it sure sounds like Philly was on the brain of his coach and mentor, Keith Williams, who apparently confessed he was pulling for Fultz to go to Philly immediately after Boston won the draft lottery.

Here’s what Babb shared.

“YES!” says a Bitmoji of Ebony Fultz in her green Celtics jersey. Across the table, Markelle’s private coach and mentor, Keith Williams, is talking about how Boston might contend for a championship sooner — though a different franchise would have offered the young guard a quicker path to superstardom.

“I kind of wanted Philly,” Williams is saying, and indeed a month later, Markelle would visit the 76ers the same day Philadelphia finalized a blockbuster trade with the Celtics to acquire the No. 1 pick.

Later on in the profile, Williams’ mind circles back to Philadelphia once again.

Philadelphia is close to home, and as Williams points out it could make him an overnight star, but … “Let me stop him there,” Williams says. “If he went to Philly, he would’ve gotten fat, because all he’d want to do is — what’s the steak and cheese spot?”

“Larry’s,” Markelle says, and now seeing how the run-up to the NBA draft has played out, the coach at his side might have a new kind of weakness to confront.

Williams, always the lead-footed driver of Markelle’s basketball career, says on this night that Boston might be, like the University of Washington, the best overall fit. But he can’t keep his mind from thinking about how, in Philadelphia, a humble guard with a blue-collar mentality might become an overnight sensation. “Philly is the quickest opportunity,” Williams says, “to become a star alone on a team.”

While I would quibble with the “star alone” part—y’all have seen Joel Embiid play, and Ben Simmons is ready to do work next season—it is interesting to see one of the key figures in Fultz’s life admitting to a preference for Philly.

Examine some other evidence from this past weekend, like Fultz copping to already owning the Sixers hat he wore to the practice facility, and you can imagine a scenario where people around Fultz stressed to the Sixers that hey, maybe it would be a good idea to stay in the mix for him. No one involved would ever admit to such a thing, but if Williams was happy to tell a reporter about a Philly preference on the record, there’s sure to be a lot more we don’t know about.

If you really want to dive into conspiracy theories, here are pictures from each of Fultz’s respective workouts with the Celtics, Lakers, and Sixers.

Case closed if you ask me. Whatever prompted the dramatic move up to No. 1, it’s reassuring to know people around him are excited for him to play in Philly. Fultz’s voice is the one that counts most, but any positive reinforcement from his team is welcome here.

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