Fujii’s goal: Learn under McMillan before transferring to Division I

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Max Fujii was offered partial academic scholarships to St. Mary’s in Moraga and the University of San Francisco, but “I’d be a walk-on at those schools and realistically, I wouldn’t get much playing time my freshman year.” / Christa Jeremiason

Max Fujii, a two-time All-Empire large school basketball player of the year, has enrolled at Santa Rosa Junior College.

“I took a long time to decide and I’m comfortable with my decision,” the former Analy High sharpshooter said.

Fujii’s goal is to play Division I basketball and he thinks two years under the tutelage of Santa Rosa coach Craig McMillan will prepare him for the next level.

Thanks to his 4.2 grade point average, he was offered partial academic scholarships to St. Mary’s (Moraga) and the University of San Francisco.

“I’d be a walk-on at those schools and realistically, I wouldn’t get much playing time my freshman year,” Fujii said. “I love playing so much, I wanted to go somewhere where I’d have a chance to play this season.”

Fujii is undecided on a major and will take prerequisite classes needed to earn a bachelor’s degree while at the JC.
McMillan, a four-year starter at guard for the University of Arizona in the 1980s, is looking forward to coaching Fujii.

“He’s a winner,” McMillan said. “I’ve followed his high school career and he’s a player I really wanted.

“I think playing at the junior college level is a good move for him.”

Santa Rosa plays in the Big 8 Conference and last year the Bear Cubs finished 22-9 and made it to the finals of the NorCal playoffs.

Fujii is 5-foot-9 and weighs about 160.

“I’d like to see him put on weight and of course, he’s going to improve playing with and against better players,” McMillan said. “He’s a hard-worker and is driven to be successful.”

Fujii was probably the most prolific 3-point shooter in Redwood Empire history. In three years with the Analy varsity, the point guard connected on 267 of 550 shots from beyond the arc.

He was also deadly from the free throw line where he nailed 291 of 361 attempts (81 percent) while playing for the Tigers.

Fujii averaged 23.2 points as a senior, 15.7 his junior season and 14.4 as a sophomore.

Brett Page, his high school coach, thinks Fujii will make the adjustment to junior college ball.

“Yes, his height and weight kept him from getting an offer from a four-year college, but those schools don’t know the drive Max possesses,” Page said.

“He’s very goal-oriented and leads by example. He’s not going to be the most vocal player on the court, but no one wants to win more.

“I know his goal was to play at a four-year college out of high school, but coach McMillan can make him better. Also, Craig has earned the respect of coaches around the country and he has a lot of contacts that help his players get to the next level.”

Lorenzo McCloud, who led the Bear Cubs in scoring this past season, landed a scholarship to University of Pacific. McMillan alerted the UOP coaching staff to the 6-foot guard.

Page plans to see as many Santa Rosa games as possible.

“Now, I’ll have three former players to watch,” Page said. In addition to Fujii, Kevin Aronis and Henry Gill are returning for their sophomore seasons.

Page was an assistant to McMillan for seven years before going to Analy.