Fuller Makes Most of Opportunity with Braves
By Jonthan Bym, Editor
Last season, Daylan Fuller served as a student manager for the UNCP men’s basketball team, sat through games and worked through practice patiently waiting for an opportunity to arise for him to get a chance to suit up.
Fast forward to this season, the Braves are having the best season in program history and Fuller has gotten his opportunity to suit up on game day.
Opportunity is a reoccurring theme in the story of how Fuller has started to make an impact for UNCP during its historic season.
Fuller gained an opportunity to be a manager after trying out and falling short in fall 2013. Another opportunity arose to take a roster spot this season.
Then one final opportunity opened up this season with other returning guards from last season’s team taking a redshirt year, leaving Fuller as the second guard off the bench for the Braves.
Where there has been an opportunity, he has taken it.
“I’m blessed,” he said. “It’s a dream come true.”
Fuller came in contact with the UNCP basketball program through Ford “Scooter” Lawrence who played at UNCP and fellow Peach Belt institution Lander from 2004-2009. Lawrence, a native of Shelby, N.C., like Fuller, was able to get UNCP coach Ben Miller and Fuller in contact.
“I came here and got my foot in the door and decided to take it,” Fuller said.
He worked out with the team during the summer, and tried out for the team in the fall but didn’t make the team.
“I came in for a tryout in the fall semester, and didn’t make the cut and came back as a manager,” he said.
“When he came to tryouts, he was so nervous and worked up he couldn’t even get through the tryout,” Miller said. “I think he was just anxious…but we knew he was a good player and a good kid and we wanted to give him a chance to be a part of the program.”
“He’s always been a great player in practice, because he is so tough.”
Being a manager meant he was allowed to practice with the team along with doing laundry and getting balls and equipment ready for practice.
Through hard work and waiting his turn, Fuller gained a greater appreciation of basketball.
“Coming from high school where I was the No. 1 man, and coming in and seeing everyone a step ahead made me appreciate things now,” he said. “Watching the game and knowing I couldn’t suit up was probably the biggest things I had to deal with.”
Struggling with having to watch all the games, and not being able to play, Fuller said his parents were always there to pick up the phone and allow him to vent. He also said that student assistant coach Mason Mullins aided him with his managerial duties.
“He knew my goal was to make it on the team, so he gave me as much leeway as possible,” Fuller said.
Being a walk-on for a college basketball teams usually means that you are one of the last players off the bench in a game, if you get playing time in a game. With Alex Bradley and Jihad Wright, two guards from last season, redshirting this year, another opportunity has found its way to Fuller.
He is now the second guard off the bench for UNCP and has seen some significant minutes in PBC play when starters Griffin Pittman or Quamain Rose need a short breather or are in foul trouble. Averaging over six minutes a game over the last five games he’s played in, Fuller as seen increased minutes over the PBC schedule.
“I’m glad Coach Miller stuck with me this long and gave me a chance to actually be on the court and contribute on the court,” he said. “I’ve been preparing myself for these moments.
“Always being ready on the sideline, that’s the big thing because you never know when your name is going to be called.”
In back-to-back games on Jan. 24 and 28, Fuller scored eight points during 26 minutes during two close contests and made some impact plays to help keep UNCP in the games early on.
On Jan. 24 at Georgia Southwestern, Fuller scored four points in the first half to help keep the Braves in striking distance and also had two assists in the 79-72 win. In the 57-55 loss at GRU Augusta, Fuller had four points in the first half, a team-high at the break, and added in a few steals and rebounds.
The opportunity to come play for UNCP might not have arose if Fuller had stayed healthy throughout his high school career. A quarterback for Shelby High School, Fuller suffered a knee injury, which kept him from picking up offers for basketball from other colleges.
Looking back, however, Fuller said he wouldn’t have his situation any different than how it is now.
“In life there are always the ‘what ifs’…but everything happens for a reason,” Fuller said. “I’m happy for the way things turned out. I couldn’t be any happier than where I am right now.”
UNCP is closing in on securing the PBC East and has been nationally ranked for over six weeks. With a successful team, everyone needs to know what role they play on the team, and Fuller knows several of the ones he has.
“I play my role on the bench and consider myself like a coach because I can see things out there and let them know,” he said. “I’m not trying to do too much, I’m just trying to play my role on the court and do what coach Miller wants me to do.
“I try and keep that role of keeping everyone focused.”
The role of keeping everyone focused is something that Miller sees as well.
“Daylan is all-business when it comes to basketball,” he said. “We have a fun-loving, playful team some of the time, but you got to have some of that, but you also need guys like Daylan that are very focused and serious to bring things back to where they need to be.”
Fuller said that helping keep the focus goes beyond the regular season, but also to have it translate in PBC Tournament play and possibly into a deep NCAA Tournament run.
Photo courtesy of UNCP Sports Information. Daylan Fuller dribbles the ball up the floor in a game earlier in the season.