Rhody’s Master of Theft: The Anatomy Of The Fatts Russell Steal

Fatts Russell
Fatts Russell – Photo: Alan Hubbard

Fatts Russell broke the all-time Rhode Island men’s basketball steal record this past week – in a come-from-behind, double-overtime, Senior Night victory over Dayton, 91-89. Russell eased past Keith Cothran’s (2006-10) 206 swipes and now idles at 210 heading into a weekend matchup with George Washington. The 5-11, 165-pound blur from Philadelphia has at least three contests remaining as he looks to raise the bar for all who will follow him.

Becoming the all-time program leader in any category is a tall mountain to climb. What made Russell ideally suited to crack the steals mark? Here is a six pack of indispensable attributes:

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FEARLESSNESS

Fatts plays the game with unbridled fearlessness and has since day one. Don’t believe me? Ask Trae Young. His Philadelphia swagger serves him ably as he confronts and conquers challenges in Keaney Blue. That joy to battle regardless of the stakes, opponent, or moment makes Russell one of the greatest competitors the program has ever seen.

[Sidenote: The steal (and stick) against Young may be the most recognizable in Ram history. The only swipe that comes close for me is Carlton Owens peel away rip of, I believe, Derrick Chievous in the ’88 NCAA Tourney which was downright artistic. Pardon the digression.]

ANTICIPATION

Russell is gifted with innate anticipation skills. Whether jumping a passing lane or knowing an opponent’s intended destination before he has even begun his initial movement there, Fatts has always been a step ahead.

Fatts Russell
Fatts Russell – Photo: Alan Hubbard
QUICKNESS

Fatts possesses generational quickness on both ends of the floor. His 86 steals last year ranked 3rd in the nation. Even in a pandemic and rankled by leg injuries, he impacted 20-21 with 41 in just 20 hobbled games. If the Rams played 11 more games – a customary number – he’d project to 60+ steals, his second highest single season total. Elite quickness, both in hands and feet, allows Russell to play smothering on-ball defense and mine for steals that others with less natural ability could not even fathom attempting. His lateral mobility is absurd.

Fatts Russell
Fatts Russell – Photo: Alan Hubbard
DURABILITY

Entering this weekend, Russell has played 116 games in a Ram uniform. While he’s been banged up this year and missed a contest or two, his body has held up remarkably well over his four years in Kingston. This is particularly notable when considering the fearlessness with which he plays, his slashing mentality offensively and penchant for drawing contact, and his small frame. Pound for pound, he’s as tough and durable as they come.

Fatts Russell and David Cox
David Cox and Fatts Russell – Photo: Alan Hubbard
PREPARATION

Natural instincts and talents are necessary, but they will only get you so far. Fatts’ work ethic is well-documented. He’s smart, commits to the scout to understand opponents from a team/scheme perspective and does the recon on his matchup to understand tendencies and exploitable facets of an opponent’s game. That has factored greatly into him reaching this milestone.

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PRODUCTIVITY

Balance is key in life. It is on the hardwood too. You can defend like a Doberman, but if you can’t play offense, the career minutes won’t be there for you to record 210+ steals. Russell’s value on each end is complementary and beneficial to the other. It’s symbiotic. He is a complete basketball player.

It has been a joy to observe his passion and watch him compete in Kingston – and it ain’t over yet.