Lamin Fulton knows all too well about humility. Having spent his entire academic life in Catholic schools, he has learned of its rewards and pride’s snares. Next year, however, life will introduce the Ss. Neumann-Goretti senior to a wicked case of irony when he pushes the ball for St. Peter’s College. The Jersey City school uses the peacock, known for flaunting its feathers, as the mascot for its men’s athletic teams.
Fulton, of the 1300 block of South 29th Street, plans to avoid using any bravado in his on-court antics at the next level. He kick-started his future Oct. 4, announcing the 3,300-strong member of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference as his choice among four pursuers.
“I’m looking to play a key role as a freshman next season,” he said Friday before venturing to watch some future teammates practice.
They may not have become his acquaintances if not for a bit of good fortune March 19. Scouts from St. Peter’s attended the Saints’ PIAA AAA boys’ quarterfinal game at Widener University’s Schwartz Athletic Center hoping for a big game from an Archbishop Carroll player.
Playing tight defense and contributing four points, Fulton helped his school, 1736 S. 10th St., score a 53-38 victory. One week later, the team would win the PIAA state championship, completing a 30-1 season that including Catholic League and City titles. Based on his efforts, the St. Peter’s coaching staff began looking at the 5-foot-9 point guard, intensifying interest in July.
Canisius College in Buffalo had won Fulton’s initial favor, but visits to St. Peter’s and conversations with parents Bonita and Lamin Sr. and Saints’ coach Carl Arrigale led to his deciding on yet another Catholic institution for his studies and athletic gifts. In addition to being a pending Neumann-Goretti graduate, Fulton is an alumnus of St. Thomas Aquinas School, 1719 Morris St.
“My mom had been a little concerned that I had only one school in mind,” he said of shifting focus away from Canisius, Central Connecticut and St. Francis in Central Pennsylvania — his three other seekers. “When we talked the evening of Oct. 3, she said to make my decision when I felt ready. After that night, I felt confident, so I announced my plans the next day.”
In just under three weeks, he can give the Peacocks his official endorsement when prospective student-athletes can sign National Letters of Intent. Though other high school stars have reneged on verbal agreements, Fulton, a Third Team All-Catholic selection last season, knows he will not join them.
“I’m set,” he said of his Nov. 10 date with destiny.
Once on campus, he will study either sports management or business. Judging from his track record, one could say his choice of major is the only area of uncertainty in his life.
“I feel great about being able to help St. Peter’s,” he said of the school, which last qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 1995. “I’m eager to see how they do this year, but I know last year they lost a few close games, games where they had the lead with only a few minutes left. I hope to be the one who’s there to close games.”
Assuming a big role with the Peacocks will come after completing a huge chapter in his high school’s annals. He enters this season as the Saints’ only senior and knows he needs to serve as a mentor, especially for the five freshmen who will vie for minutes.
“We’ve started conditioning and we’re looking forward to defending our titles,” he said.
Those titles came partly because of the contributions from four seniors who all intend this year to play for Division I schools.
“It’s going to be interesting coming off a year where we had four productive seniors, four guys who would become D-1 players to this year, where I’m the leader. I’m the lonesome senior,” Fulton said with a laugh.
Because of other teams’ depth and his squad’s supposed lack of it, he has heard whispers that the Saints soon will be hobnobbing with mediocrity.
“Yeah, people think we’ve fallen, but we’re out to prove people wrong,” Fulton said.
To do so, he and his mates will have to make their court communication as constant as their regular chatter.
“I enjoy hanging out with my teammates. We’re often out supporting our (school’s) other sports. The freshmen are like little brothers to me,” Fulton, who averaged about 10 points per game last season, said.
He will need those he considers his kin to mature quickly. In addition to the rigors of Catholic League play, the Saints also will compete against top teams in Florida and West Virginia tournaments.
“He is the perfect candidate to take on such a large role,” Arrigale said. “He is serious about the program and about becoming a better player. I know he is capable of leading us. I also feel comfortable handing him over to (St. Peter’s) coach (John) Dunne.”
Playing such a scrutinized position, Fulton has analyzed his talents fairly, shunning the hubris of a peacock in his assessment.
“I can shoot and pass well, but I have to improve my decision-making. I need to know when it is the best time to shoot and when it is the best time to pass,” Fulton said.
This season, he figures to have plenty of chances to make lightning-quick decisions. The Saints depend greatly on their outside weapons, and Fulton wants to make this campaign so successful that he can leave the young guns ready to bring home more titles.
When he graces St. Peter’s Yanitelli Center next autumn, he knows this year’s mission to improve will stick with him.
“Each time I practice or play, I’m just looking to become a better basketball player,” he said. SPR
Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at email@example.com or ext. 124.