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Greater Tulsa Reporter

Fuqua Father-Son Team Embedded in ORU History

GTR Sports Writer

FATHER AND SON: Richard Fuqua with his son R.J. recently at the Mabee Center.

Photo courtesy ORU Athletics

High above the Mabee Center floor hangs a small banner bearing a special number. Perhaps its significance is lost in time to many, but a young man sits beneath the rafters today recalling where he would be without the man who wore “24.’’ 

Richard Fuqua was a silky smooth point guard for Oral Roberts University five decades ago and his number is one of just three retired by the Golden Eagles. He was the school’s greatest scorer and remains a legend among ORU faithful. Son R.J. is now a sophomore for the Eagles and using the skills his father taught him to overcome troubled times.

The young Fuqua underwent hip surgery in October and is expected to miss the entire 2018-19 season.

“He is a great dad and we’re pretty close,’’ said Fuqua, who started 21 of 27 games as a freshman at ORU. “He’s always there for me and I never had a time I couldn’t talk to him about anything. He makes sure I’m doing well and he told me that school is bigger than basketball. He also told me to go out and do what I love to do.’’

 Just like his dad, R.J. loves basketball and he’s currently trying to find his way back to the court. His career was put on hold when it was discovered the ball of his femur fitting into the hip socket was larger than normal.

 “They scoped my hip socket so it (the ball) would fit better and not cause pain,’’ Fuqua said. “At first it was demoralizing (missing the season), but I figured over time it’s better than playing hurt. After games my body got really stiff and it hurt to move. I still feel pain from the surgery because it takes ligaments time to heal.’’  

 Since he now will probably miss the rest of the seas as a redshirt, R.J. should have more time to spend with his father, who is retired and living in Tulsa.       

“Growing up I watched football games with him and we loved all sports,’’ said R.J. “We watched tennis and boxing and everything you can think of. He doesn’t like coaching, but he did coach my AAU team. He doesn’t like crowds either, but he comes to my games at ORU.’’
 Richard Fuqua does know a thing or two about the Mabee Center and playing for what was then the Titans. He suited up for 111 games at ORU, scoring 3,004 points and being selected All-America in 1972. Richard finished second in the nation in scoring, averaging 35.9 points a game as a junior and 27.1 for his career. 

  Fuqua worked at the Salvation Army, the Comanche Apartments and the Juvenile Detention Center in Tulsa before retiring.

 “We don’t compare (on the court). He was taller (6-4) and a scorer,’’ said the 5-11 R.J. “I haven’t gotten to his level. I’m working on my game daily like he did. He always talks about me being a complete player and I ask him about what I did wrong after games. He’s all about counter moves and not having just one. If somebody stops it, you go another way. Dad also told me to keep having confidence. If I miss a shot, the next one will go in.’’

 In addition, father instructed son to “play hard on both sides of the ball’’ and that’s R.J.’s plan. Thus far, ORU coach Paul Mills says Fuqua is achieving the goal.

 “R.J is a sponge and wants to improve each time he’s on the court,’’ Mills said. “He is developing as a leader, but what sets him apart from other players is his grit and determination. He wants to make the team better at the point guard position and he’s done a good job as a communicator to assist the team.’’

 At Booker T. Washington, Fuqua was named All-State as a senior, scoring 32 points in the Hornets’ upset of unbeaten Union in the 6A state tournament semifinals. As a freshman at ORU, he tied the school record for steals in a game with nine in his first time out, finishing the season averaging 8.0 points, 2.9 assists and 2.7 rebounds.     
 His primary purpose now is to regain and surpass the form that produced those totals and that’s where his father’s work ethic comes in.

 “I rehab every day,’’ said Fuqua. “I’m riding the bike, doing hip bridges and body weight squats. I’m using my knees to bend down and up, but not too far. I don’t know if I will come back this season, but I travel with the team and go and watch practice. During games I want to be there with my teammates. I can help them from the bench. I can see everything. It’s a whole different perspective.

 “It’s never about me and my personal goals. I’m getting my body stronger so I can come back and help the team win. It’s pushing me to work on my game, shooting and dribbling. My dad doesn’t work out with me anymore since he had a stroke, but he tells me when I’m floating backwards on my jump shot. He said you should always go straight up and down. He tells me I need to be smarter with the ball. Sometimes I’m careless and I need to take care of the ball.’’

The foundation for R.J.’s game, and his determination to succeed, was set with the AAU Tulsa Bulldogs. As a fourth grader, his father began coaching the team and it proved to be a dividend.

 ”He took me to the gym every day, but he always gave me a choice,’’ R.J. said. “He told me if I didn’t want to do it I could stop. I didn’t stop and we lost a lot of games that first year, but later we did become third in the nation. Ever since, I’ve been playing on winning teams.

 “Since I can remember my mom (Gaysha) has come to all my games. She loves basketball as much as me and my dad. She tells me to listen to what he says because he knows more than I do. We used to get into arguments because I thought I knew more, but I would go back and watch film and see that he was right. I made a bad pass or passed up open shots. I missed a lot of shots last year, but if I’m open now I’m going to take them. And get my teammates involved too.’’

  Although the future is uncertain for R.J. Fuqua, he can look back at his father’s influence and know he’s cheering for him, win or lose. And when R.J. takes the floor in his number 12 jersey, he can look upward and realize, symbolically, when it comes to matching his dad’s glory, he’s only halfway there.    

Updated 12-17-2018

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