Mesa's Fuller puts in the work
Devoted player earns scholarship from Iowa

Richard Obert
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 16, 2008

Aaron Fuller has never missed a day of school. Never been late. And he puts in extra time after school. On the basketball court.

That dedication is paying big dividends.

His strong efforts his senior season at Mesa High brought him a scholarship offer from Iowa, which he accepted and will sign next month. It also made him The Arizona Republic's 2007-08 Big Schools (Class 4A-5A) Player of the Year.

"I played with a chip on my shoulder," Fuller said.

That rather large chip was put there after going through the summer without a bite from a big Division I school. It got more intense after the early signing period passed, and Fuller still was without a major-college suitor.

He averaged 24.7 points, 11.6 rebounds, two blocks this season.

"His patience and work ethic paid off," Mesa coach Shane Burcar said. "He's just scratching the surface of his ability."

What Iowa will be getting is a solid student with great character who never takes his skills for granted. He likes taking the lead, and he produces - whether it's tearing down a rebound, blocking a shot in the waning moments or making clutch free throws.

Early in the season, when Mesa was struggling to get going, Fuller put the team on his back, especially in the final minute of a two-point victory at Chandler Hamilton. His team trailed by eight with 53 seconds left, and Fuller scored the game's final 10 points.

It was a turning point to the season, as Mesa went on to capture the East Valley Region regular-season championship.

Fuller's season also included a school-record 46-point effort against Mesa Westwood.

But, in the regional tournament championship game against Mesa Mountain View, Fuller caught Brendon Lavender's elbow in the mouth while Lavender was dunking the ball with five minutes left. Fuller's season was over.

He broke a bone in his jaw, had teeth held together only by his braces ("If I didn't have them, I would have looked like a vampire," he said) and missed Mesa's first-round Class 5A Division I tournament loss to Chandler Basha, which eventually reached the semifinals.

"It was hard not being out there, knowing I could help them," Fuller said. "I liked being the leader. I was just supporting from the sideline, hoping for the best. You just have to move on."
Tribune boys basketball player of the year:
Aaron Fuller, Mesa

By Les Willsey,
 East Valley Tribune
March 16, 2008

Mesa High’s Aaron Fuller had a wealth of motivation heading into the 2007-08 basketball season.

See the print version of the All-Tribune prep sports section

A few nibbles from colleges his junior year didn’t pan out so Fuller was bent on having a stellar season to convince schools who were fence-sitting. He also wanted to get the Jackrabbits back on top in the 5A East Valley Region, which would mean supplanting three-time defending state champ Mesa Mountain View.

And the capper to a big season would be advancing to state and going further than the Jackrabbits did in 2006-07.

Fuller’s play helped accomplish much of that, but the Jackrabbits’ early exit from state was the only downside to a season in which he was selected the Tribune’s player of the year for 2007-08.

The 6-foot-7 senior forward averaged 23.7 points per game and 11 rebounds per contest. In January, he set a school record for points in a game by hitting for 46 against Mesa Westwood. Mesa won the East Valley Region title and beat Mountain View both times in region play.

“He had a lot of things he wanted to take care of,” Mesa coach Shane Burcar said. “The best way he did that was to let his basketball skills do the talking.”

Two weeks ago, Fuller found out his basketball career will continue at the collegiate level when he gave a verbal commitment to Iowa. He will sign with the Hawkeyes a month from today.

“Iowa’s excited,” Burcar said. “I know he’s excited about going there. He’ll be an outstanding player for them.”

That fact still doesn’t erase the only downer to Fuller’s season.

Playing in the East Valley Region tournament championship game against Mountain View, he and Toros standout Brendon Lavender collided in mid-air in the fourth period as Fuller tried to block Lavender’s attempt at a driving layup.

Fuller took the brunt of Lavender’s elbow to the mouth. Two days later, Fuller learned he’d suffered a broken jaw. He was unable to play in the Jackrabbits’ first-round game at state at Jackrabbit Gym against Chandler Basha.

Mesa lost, 50-38. Fuller’s final play as a prep player will be remembered as an all-out effort in what was, in truth, a meaningless game.

“It was hard ending the season with him not being able to play,” Burcar said. “But he accomplished a lot with the pressure on. It’s a pleasure to coach a skilled player, an unselfish player and a team player like Aaron.”