When Nick Fuller was given an option by his parents on which winter sport to focus on at an early age, Sun Prairie High School’s basketball program was the eventual beneficiary when he opted for the round ball instead of a puck.
“My dad played hockey and basketball and told me I could either play hockey or travel around and play basketball and I chose basketball,” said Fuller, who is a three-year starter as a 6-foot-6 forward/guard in the Cardinals varsity program. “I learned to skate when I was really small, about four or five. I started hockey early and then transitioned to basketball. I’m glad I did.”
Fuller has emerged as one of the state’s elite college prospects, drawing interest from a variety of NCAA Division I programs.
“I like to play with people who love the sport as much as you do,” said Fuller, who began playing AAU basketball with the Wisconsin Force in sixth grade and later joined the Wisconsin Swing as a high school freshman. “I like playing with kids from around the area and seeing how you match up against the competition.”
Fuller has more than held his own, recently being named the Big Eight Conference Player of the Year and earning Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Division 1 first team and Associated Press second team all-state honors after averaging 23.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game his junior season.
He also led Sun Prairie to an 17-8 overall record, including a 13-5 mark and a tie for second place in the Big Eight Conference, as well as a berth in the Division 1 sectional semifinals despite being the team’s only returning starter.
For his efforts, Fuller has been selected as the Wisconsin State Journal All-Area Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
“We’ve finished second in the Big Eight the last two years,” Fuller said of the Cardinals, who are looking for both their first conference title and state tournament berth. “Hopefully we can contend for the Big Eight title next year and step the level of Sun Prairie basketball up so even when I’m gone it will get better.”
Fuller credits his father, Jeff, for having the most influence on his budding career.
“I can’t remember the last time he missed a game. He’s always there,” Nick said. “He’s a critic and a supporter. He tells me what I did wrong but also supports me. He’s really made me the player who I am today.”
Jeff Fuller had to chuckle when he reminisced over his son’s decision to choose basketball over hockey.
“I played hockey through youth but we happened to move to a community with a middle school that didn’t have hockey in Poynette. So I had to pick up basketball at that time,” Jeff Fuller said.
When Nick — who was born and raised in Sun Prairie — was old enough to participate in organized sports, his parents let him decide which one to play.
“I ended up asking him if he wanted two new pairs of basketball shoes or a used pair of skates at Village Peddler,” Jeff Fuller recalled. “Nick wanted the two new pairs of basketball shoes so it made it easy for him to pick basketball.”
Nick also played youth football, but in high school he focused solely on basketball. Just a few weeks after his most recent high school season ended, he was back on the AAU circuit.
“I love the game and enjoy the competition and making new friends and traveling all over,” he said. “This will be my last year in AAU and it will be bittersweet but I hope we have a fun year. I’m playing with a great group of guys.”
His summer team will include Bronson Koenig of La Crosse Aquinas, who has committed to play at Wisconsin in 2013, as well as Luke Fischer of Germantown, an Indiana recruit.
“Bronson and I used to play together when we were in middle school so it will be fun playing with him again,” Fuller said.
However, Fuller said former Wisconsin Swing teammate and current Germantown senior Zak Showalter has influenced his game the most
“He really showed me and taught me how to play hard on every possession the whole game and to give it your all and never back down from anything,” Fuller said of Showalter, who will walk-on at the University of Wisconsin next season. “Being able to watch him and see the things he does have really helped me out.”
Fuller will enter his senior season with 1,341 points and 513 rebounds in 74 career games. Sun Prairie coach Jeff Boos said it is no secret that as Fuller goes, so do the Cardinals.
“He’s probably one of the finest finishers that I’ve ever been associated with from a coaching side,” Boos said. “He has the ability to shoot it from the perimeter and he can also take you inside. He finishes very well in transition. “He has such a presence that he can make the other players look pretty good, too.”
Fuller said he has received offers from Marquette, UW-Milwaukee, Creighton, Northern Iowa, Illinois State, St. Louis, Drake and Toledo. His father added that Iowa and Nebraska are among the schools that have also shown interest.
“My time to decide will be the fall but if something happens that I like and something works out it could be earlier,” he said. “It could be anywhere from the next couple of days. It just depends on what feels best.”
RUDY BENTLEY, Madison East
Notable: First-team All-Big Eight Conference. ... Will play college basketball at Carroll University ... Said Verona coach Alan Buss: “Explosive and a great shooter makes him almost impossible to guard.”
BRYAN DALTON, Verona
Notable: First-team All-Big Eight after earning honorable mention as a junior. ... Said Janesville Parker coach Ryan Masterson: “Strong post player with the ability to step outside.”
NICK FULLER, Sun Prairie
Notable: First-team WBCA All-State. ... Second-team AP All-State. ... Two-time, first-team All-Big Eight. ... 2012 Big Eight player of the year. ... Had 1,311 points and 424 rebounds in 74 career games.
ERIC HAGSTROM, Middleton
Notable: First-team All-Big Eight. ... Leading scorer on a Middleton team that had eight players score at least 100 points. ... Accomplished golfer who led Middleton to the 2011 state title.
MATT HUNTER, Madison La Follette
Notable: First-team All-Big Eight after earning honorable mention as a junior. .. Said Verona coach Alan Buss: “Plays with great intensity and leadership.”
Antoine Buchanon, 6-4, 10.3, Sr., Middleton
Malik Clements, 6-2, 11.6, So., Madison West
Kwame Latimer, 5-11, 11.7, Sr., Madison West
Andre Neal, 6-5, 17.8, So., Beloit Memorial
Ngijol Songolo, 6-4, 10.1, Sr., Madison Memorial
Eric Albeck, Janesville Parker, Sr.; Trevon Ampe, Madison La Follette, Jr.; Andrew Argall, Verona, Jr.; Noble Jackson-Bey, Madison West, Sr.; Josh Morgan, Madison La Follette, Sr.; Nick Noskowiak, Sun Prairie, Fr.; Brett Pickarts, Janesville Craig, Sr.; Andrew Sommerville, Janesville Parker, Sr.; Jester Weah, Madison Memorial, Jr.; Cameron Wright, Janesville Craig, Sr.
AUSTIN ARIANS, Madison Edgewood
Notable: First-team WBCA All-State. ... Honorable mention AP All-State. ... Two-time unanimous, first-team All-Southern Badger after making second team in 2009. ... UW-Milwaukee recruit.
CONNER KOWALKOWSKI, Stoughton
Notable: Honorable mention AP All-State. ... First-team All-Southern Badger after earning honorable mention in 2011. ... Said Madison Edgewood coach Chris Zwettler: “(Conner) makes the Vikings go.”
SEAN MCGANN, Baraboo
Notable: First-team All-Northern Badger after making second team as a sophomore & junior. ... Had 1,074 points in 70 career games. ... Said Wis. Dells coach Brad Rolling: “Had to do everything for Baraboo.”
BRANDON STAFFEIL, DeForest
Notable: First-team WBCA All-State. ... HM AP All-State. ... Two-time first-team All-No. Badger. ... Led Norskies to first WIAA state tournament berth. ... Said Baraboo coach Tom Steinhorst: “Strong, smart, solid.”
JOE TAGARELLI, Waunakee
Notable: First-team WBCA All-State. ... Honorable mention AP All-State. ... First-team All-Northern Badger. ... Had 599 career points. ... Will play at UW-Milwaukee as a preferred walk-on.
Tanner Boos, 6-1, 11.5, Jr., Fort Atkinson
Will Decorah, 6-4, 13.5, Jr.,Waunakee
Max Fuller, 6-5, 11.0, Sr., Stoughton
Jake Heuer, 6-4, 17.1, Sr., Beaver Dam
Sam McCann, 6-5, 14.0, Sr., Milton
Lucas Baier, Sauk Prairie, Sr.; Alex Barenklau, Monroe, Jr.; Eric Bolden, Milton, Sr.; Josh Bollig, Mount Horeb, Sr.; Adam Considine, Portage, So.; Nic Ewelt, McFarland, Sr.; Brett Percy, Monona Grove, Jr.; Capreace Salinas, Reedsburg, Jr.; David Solberg, Oregon, Sr.; Jack Zwettler, Madison Edgewood, Sr.
DANNY PADLEY, Lodi
Notable: Honorable mention WBCA All-State. ... First-team All-Northern Capitol after earning second team as a junior. ... Led team to first conference title since 1966 and first WIAA state berth.
TANNER PLOMB, East Troy
Notable: First-team WBCA All-State. ... Honorable mention AP All-State. ... Three-time, first-team All-Northern Rock Valley. ... Northern Rock Valley player of the year. ... Army recruit.
LUKE ROTHE, Watertown Luther Prep
Notable: Honorable mention AP All-State. ... Two-time, first-team All-Northern Capitol. .... 2012 Northern Capitol player of the year. ... Had career-high 41 points in WIAA regional final vs. Ripon.
CAM WARD, Marshall
Notable: First-team WBCA All-State. ... Fourth-team AP All-State. ... Two-time, first-team All-Southern Capitol and two-time player of the year. ... Has 1,105 points in 50 career games.
SHANE WIMANN, Wisconsin Dells
Notable: First-team WBCA All-State. ... Honorable mention AP All-State. ... Two-time, first-team All-South Central & two-time player of the year. ... Has 1,057 points & 431 rebounds in 70 career games.
M.J. Delmore, 5-11, 15.9, Jr., Wisconsin Dells
Nathan Dodge, 6-3, 19.0, Jr., East Troy
Joel Heesch, 6-3, 25.7, Jr., Mauston
Justin Langley, 6-6, 17.0, Sr., Clinton
Connor Morovits, 6-0, 14.1, Sr., Prairie du Chien
Alec Adsit, Richland Center, Jr.; Jake Bechen, Dodgeville, Sr.; Nick Crowley, Dodgeville, Jr.; Caleb Gartner, Lakeside Lutheran, Sr.; Tate Harnack, Brodhead, Sr.; Justin Leistikow, Marshall, Sr.; Turner Moen, Lake Mills, So.; Myles Olsen, East Troy, Sr.; Cody Risseeuw, Clinton, Jr.; Jordan Shea, Lodi, So.
TRENT DENLINGER, Cuba City
Notable: First-team WBCA All-State. ... Two-time, first-team All-Southwest Wisconsin Activities League. ... UW football preferred walk-on recruit. ... New Glarus coach Travis Sysko: “A beast inside.”
ERIK ENGELSTAD, Cambridge
Notable: Two-time, first-team All-Southern Capitol. ... Has 666 points in two varsity seasons. ... Monticello coach Mark Olson said: “Very strong with the ball. Great finisher. Gets to where he wants.”
TYLER KREKLOW, New Glarus
Notable: Two-time, first-team All-Southern Capitol. ... 2011 Southern Capitol co-player of the year.... No. 3 all-time in scorer at New Glarus (934 points) and No. 2 in assists (317) in 71 career games.
JARED REAR, Belleville
Notable: Honorable mention WBCA All-State. ... Honorable mention AP All-State. ... First-team All-Southern Capitol after earning HM as a junior. ... Had 692 points in 45 career games.
CORY VAASSEN, Cuba City
Notable: First-team WBCA All-State. ... Third-team AP All-State. ... Three-time, first-team All-SWAL. ... 2012 SWAL player of the year. ... UW-Platteville recruit. ... Led team to state runner-up finish.
Nic Bowe, 5-9, 13.4, Sr., Cambridge
Brandon Hardyman, 6-0, 16.7, Sr., Darlington
Vince Musa, 6-1, 15.9, Sr., Deerfield
Eric Schepp, 6-1, 16.6, Jr., Pardeeville
Trae VandeBerg, 6-2, 15.4, So., New Glarus
Zach Adams, Cuba City, Sr.; Daren Helmenstine, Wisconsin Heights, Sr.; Justin Hore, Lancaster, Sr.; Tyler Kovalaske, Waterloo, Sr.; Kent Miehe, Darlington, Sr.; Zach Schwoch, Markesan, Sr.; Brandon Slaats, Cuba City, Jr.; Travis Steffes, Mineral Point, Sr.; Mitchell Whalen, Darlington, Sr.; Garrison Woods, Belleville, So.
LUKAS KOLASCH, Monticello
Notable: Two-time All-Eastern Six Rivers. ... 2012 E. Six Rivers player of the year. ... Had 722 points & 277 rebounds in 76 career games. Highland coach Chad Paquette: “Tough kid. Real athletic.”
SAM MURPHY, Royall
Notable: HM WBCA All-State. ... Three-time first-team All-Scenic Bluffs. ... Has 849 points, 316 rebounds & 295 assists in 76 career games. ... Bangor coach Jordan Laufenberg: “Very smooth player.”
DAVID NEIS, Benton
Notable: Unanimous first-team WBCA All-State. ... HM AP All-State. ... Four-time, All-W. Six Rivers. ... Had 1,611 points, 447 rebounds & 386 assists in 105 career games. ... Had school-record 42 points vs. Boscobel.
SAM NECHKASH, Barneveld
Notable: Two-time, first-team All-Eastern Six Rivers. ... Averaged 3.3 blocked shots as a senior. ... Monticello coach Mark Olson said: “Can play point-center. ... Tough inside and out.”
AARON RETZLAFF, Randolph
Notable: First-team WBCA All-State. ... First-team All-Central Trailways after making second team in 2011. ... 2012 C. Trailways player of the year. ... Has 590 points & 363 rebounds in 60 career games.
Lawrence Crement, 6-3, 17.1, Sr., Williams Bay
Grant Dull, 5-10, 13.5, Sr., North Crawford
Ethan Grimsled, 6-5, 24.2, Sr., Seneca
Isaiah Shell, 6-1, 17.1, So., Albany
Josh Smith, 6-4, 14.9, Jr., Southwestern
Joe Childs, North Crawford, Sr.; Joey Jordan, Juda, Sr.; Ty Kartman, Cassville, So.; Hunter Leibfried, Potosi, Jr.; Jay Peters, Randolph, Jr.; Jordan Polk, Wonewoc-Center, Sr.; Cody Reuter, Randolph, Sr.; Pierce Russell, Shullsburg, Jr.; Josh Selje, Rio, Jr.; Aaron Tranel, Southwestern, Jr.