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Love of game back for PSUGA guard Fulton

| Monday, Nov. 18, 2013, 1:16 a.m.

Basketball is fun again for Taylor Fulton. And not just because she's back in a starring role.

Fulton, the senior point guard at Penn State-Greater Allegheny, has circled her way home after stops at California (Pa.), Appalachian State and Penn State-Beaver.

In her second season at the McKeesport campus, the former all-WPIAL section player — once at defunct Duquesne and twice at West Mifflin — is reminding family, friends and fans of her stellar high school career.

“She was a joy to coach, on and off the floor,” legendary former West Mifflin coach Phil Shar said. “When she came to West Mifflin as a junior from Duquesne, she instantly became one of our leaders.”

The 5-foot-5 Fulton, who earned co-MVP honors in the Penn State University Athletic Conference in 2012, hopes to lead PSUGA to a winning season in her final college year. The Lions are off to a 1-3 start after a 73-52 loss at NAIA Point Park on Friday, the first of four consecutive scheduled road games.

They'll play at Pitt-Titusville on Tuesday.

“That Point Park game was a six-point game for the majority of the first half,” PSUGA coach Lou Zadecky said. “It was a closer game than what it appeared. That game would have been a 40-point game last year. We're headed in the right direction, and Taylor is our leader. She's the best player I've ever coached.”

Fulton said she never was comfortable with her environments after leaving home.

After first committing to NCAA Division II California (Pa.) but never attending the school, Fulton followed its former coaching staff to Division I Appalachian State, where she redshirted for one season. She eventually transferred to Penn State-Beaver because “Beaver had the best team in the PSUAC at the time,” she said.

It didn't hurt to wear the Penn State logo, either, Fulton said.

“I always liked Penn State,” she said. “When you get a degree from Penn State, it means a lot more than from other places. It's very beneficial in the corporate world.”

Fulton played one season at Beaver, then decided to concentrate on academics. After a year away from the game, though, she was hungry to get back on the court.

She moved to McKeesport and enrolled at PSUGA, where she immediately bonded with her new team.

“I was elated,” said Zadecky, a former Yough girls coach. “I needed a leader to step onto the floor right away. She magically was the perfect fit for us. She makes everybody better. She knows when to take control and when to hand the power to somebody else. She's not selfish. I've never had a player that I can honestly say is a complete extension of me. She knows what I'm thinking, and I know what she's thinking, and because of that, the team can get better and accomplish what it goes out to do.

“It's like a symphony. It just moves right along.”

Fulton, who already has earned a bachelor's degree in psychology, is working on a second one in business.

“Then,” she said, “I hope to go on and get my master's and MBA.”

It wasn't always this blissful for Fulton, whose father, Vaughn Pitts, is a boys assistant coach at Clairton. When she left home in 2009, she had no idea that basketball, one of the comforts of her life, wouldn't be fun anymore.

Her time spent at Appalachian State was proof.

“I was always absolutely in love with the game,” she said. “But I didn't love it anymore. It was uncomfortable for me down there. The reason I didn't stay is because I am very family-oriented. I have five sisters, and my mom raised the six of us to be very close. I guess I didn't realize how homesick I could be. We weren't there for each other.”

Being home makes all the difference to Fulton, who hopes to continue to play after her college career has ended. She also said she would be interested in becoming a coach.

Through four games this season, Fulton is averaging 16.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 8.2 assists and 5.0 steals. She said she is embracing the role of underdog, insisting that teams will learn not to overlook the Lions as a patsy opponent.

“The Point Park game was a good example,” she said before turning her attention back to her roots. “I want to leave a mark at Greater Allegheny so people wake up and see that there are players here who want to win. And I want to show the young girls around here that if there is something you really want to do, something that you really love, it's OK to feel like a little kid and show it.

“When you are in high school, you think you have your life figured out. I finally realized the most important things for me are my family and being a good example to others.”

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dmackall@tribweb.com.

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