Is Fatts Russell the "Best" Basketball Player to go through URI?
It’s a name Ocean State basketball fans have heard quite frequently the past four years. Fatts Russell. Is he the best basketball star to have gone through the University of Rhode Island? Kingston has been home to many basketball prodigies in years past: Lamar Odom, Cuttino Mobley, Sylvester Williams. But where does Fatts fit?
Russell’s fate of going pro is on hold since the senior guard was given an extra year of playing opportunity from the pandemic. On April 3, Russell announced via social media that he will be continuing his college career at the University of Maryland.
However, his departure from Kingston came as no surprise since on March 23, less than a month after the Rams last game of the 2021 season, Russell shared on Instagram the 13 schools who had eyes on him since announcing he was entering the transfer portal. Options included UCLA, Auburn, Penn State, Oklahoma, and more. However, when it came down to making a final decision Russell chose a school closer to his Philadelphia home.
Although Russell still has one more year of college ball to play, there is no doubt that he is one of the best players to go through URI’s program. In four seasons, he has built a resume that is sure to get him anywhere if he chooses to continue a career in the NBA.
In one of the most intense games of the 2021 season, Dayton at URI on February 16, Russell was crowned the all-time steals leader in Kingston. In the 91-89 double overtime thriller against Atlantic-10 rival, Russell committed his 208th crime to surpass former player Keith Cothran from 2006-10 to put his name at the top. He also sits at the top of the list for most steals in a single game, as well as most steals in one game at the Ryan Center, which occurred against St. Louis in March of 2020 when Russell had eight steals. On the offensive side of things, he scored the most points in a single road game, 41, and also most free throws made in one game at the Ryan Center, 16. In case that isn’t enough, Russell also ranks in the top-10 of three other categories: sixth in assists, seventh in three-point baskets, and seventh in made free throws.
It has been decades since this school has seen a player like Fatts. You can find names such as Tyson Wheeler and Jimmy Baron all over the URI men’s basketball record sheets. But Wheeler played for Rhode Island in 1994-98. After that he was drafted in the second round by the Toronto Raptors where he only saw one game due to the lockout in 1999. He now holds an assistant coach position at UMass, an A-10 rival. Baron, on the other hand, played for the Rams in 2005-09 after graduating from Bishop Hendricken located in East Greenwich, RI. Baron went undrafted upon graduation from URI and went on to play overseas.
Odom is the most recent pro to come from URI, but does he shine a positive light? If you follow the NBA, or Keeping Up with the Kardashians, you’d learn that Odom struggled tremendously with the use of illegal drugs. Although he had a successful career in the big leagues following college ball, bad press always seems to overlook the good when having any sort of fame.
In Russell’s first year with the team in 2017, he started to make a name for himself. In the school’s rival game that season against Providence College, Russell had himself a night with a game-high of 20 points. Not to mention, 20 points as a freshman. In a typical scenario most freshmen athletes don’t see minutes on the court until further along down the road, unless you have pro-talent at a young age. This talk early on made waves, shining light on this young star - even the NCAA titled one of its headlines “Meet Fatts Russell - maybe one of the best guards in the A-10.”
While he closes the chapter in Kingston and opens up another in Maryland, his name will be known in the Ryan Center for years to come. With more accomplishments than one can count on their fingers, he has made it extremely difficult for incoming players to fill his shoes. However, his legacy that remains has enough to put the University of Rhode Island back on the map.