Xavier Fuller had his out.
One that made it easy to walk away. One that so many others in today’s vagabond approach to high school sports take without hesitation. One that comes with little deterrent from the governing body.
Fuller was cut from the Mesa basketball team as a sophomore. Shane Burcar and his staff saw his potential and wanted him on the roster.
Only Fuller was failing biology. It made him ineligible. The Mesa District had a strict eight-week eligibility guideline. The basketball team’s rule was even more condemning.
“We don’t want a guy around here who doesn’t have grades,” Burcar said. “If he can’t be disciplined enough to get his grades than he’s probably going to be a problem in other areas.”
So, Fuller was cut, but he didn’t spew disdain toward Burcar and decide to leave like so many others would have done. Too many times a player (and parents) feels disrespected by coaches in similar situations and they bad mouth them as they transfer to another school.
Instead Fuller made the most of his YMCA membership.
“I never thought about transferring,” Fuller, a senior guard for the Jackrabbits, said. “I’ve known coach since I was about 6 years old. I knew at the end of it I’d be back and he’d welcome me with open arms. One thing I love about Mesa is once you are part of the team, you are part of the team.
“It was a tough break but it happened. The main thing was to stay positive, move forward and keep grinding in the gym. I wore out my YMCA membership. I probably went there six days a week and just kept working.”
It’s all paying off two seasons later for Fuller.
He has developed into one of the top players and leaders for the Jackrabbits, who enter Friday’s game against Skyline 9-3, this season.
“Xavier is a good rebound story,” Burcar said. “We had to cut him, but he stuck with it. How many kids say the coach is a loser, doesn’t get it and then transfers? They go somewhere else and get a fresh start. He did the opposite. It was only one grade, but he was immature and didn’t care of things.
“He’s been unbelievable. Now, he is a good student, a captain and a floor leader.”
In those type of situations the coach gets a call. And it usually doesn’t go well. It can be a very one-sided call.
And Burcar’s phone did ring.
“His dad called and thanked me,” Burcar said of the conversation two years ago. “They worked together to make sure it didn’t happen again.”
Xavier said his parents – Darryl and Sarita – were disappointed but encouraging.
“My dad warned me and said it would happen if I wasn’t careful,” Fuller said. “I got more focused and made sure to take care of the little things. If I wanted to do the thing lI oved, I had to make sure to get to everything else in place.”
With his grades squared away, Fuller has been developing his game to become Mesa’s go-to player and started the season by being named the MVP of the Fear the Hop tournament as he help the Jackrabbits win their season-opening event.
“His confidence has improved a lot,” senior point guard and fellow captain Mark Hatch said. “He’s a different player. We know he’s going to do everything he can to help us win.”
After averaging about eight points and five rebounds last year, Fuller has jumped to 14.8 points and 8.2 rebounds so far this season.
“I want to be a leader on the team and I focus on getting my team in the best position to win,” he said. “I don’t care if I don’t get a bucket as long as we win.”
It’s another sign of Fuller’s development after one digression early in his high school career. That time away from the team gives him a unique perspective on playing the game.
“I had the game taken away from me so I don’t take it for granted,” he said. “I’m having a lot of fun this year. I know it can be gone just like that so I am trying to make the most of everything my senior year.”
– Jason P. Skoda is a senior writer for MyNewsMesa.com. Send Mesa-based story ideas to email@example.com.