HAMPTON ——With his long frame and picturesque jumper, Josh Fortune became the Peninsula District's first player to sign with a Big East program since Allen Iverson. Every opponent knows him as game-breaking outside shooter who is in range once he crosses midcourt.
Yet, somehow, Fortune continues to fly just below the radar. He's never made first-team all-district, and he doesn't get the same attention of guys like Anthony Barber at Hampton, Troy Williams at Phoebus, and teammate Rodney Bullock.
"Josh has always been an underrated player in this district," Warriors coach Ivan Thomas said. "But he's not underrated potential-wise as a 6-5 shooting guard — that's why Providence signed him.
"The people who know the game know about him. Like Boo (Williams of AAU fame) — he was the third-leading scorer on his team with Cat (Barber) and Troy. He wasn't one of the elite kids growing up around here. But when I came here (2008-09), I saw something in him."
Fortune is a typical shooter who is capable of scoring in bushels (24 points in the first half for Boo's team last summer) or hitting a cold stretch. But when he hits that cold stretch, Fortune knows the only way to snap out of it is to keep firing.
His stoke looks like it came straight out of a Ray Allen instructional video. The jumper is his calling card, but Fortune has gotten better at putting the ball on the floor and shooting off the dribble.
"He definitely has NBA range, but I've seen his game grow," said Warwick coach Lamont Strothers, who used to conduct individual workouts with Fortune. "His jump shot has opened the door for everything else, like taking it to the basket with his right or left hand. His jump shot has elevated his game."
Fortune grew up following his older brother, Craig, who played at Phoebus. His parents were both military, so there always was discipline and structure. His mother, Angela, is a lieutenant colonel stationed in Afghanistan. His father, Craig Sr., is retired Air Force and works in the landscaping business.
Why did Providence offer so early? Keno Davis, the Friars coach at the time, was impressed with Fortune's 36-point game in the AAU nationals in the summer of 2010. He offered, and Fortune accepted.
In the 14 months that passed before Fortune was able to sign, there was a coaching change — Davis was out, and Ed Cooley was in. But Fortune stuck with the Friars and became the PD's first player to sign with the Big East since Iverson went to Georgetown in 1994.
"Providence just felt right," he said. "They said they were starting anew, and I wanted to be a part of that. It's the Big East, and that's where I wanted to play."
Cooley is happy to have him. On the day his first recruiting class was announced, Cooley called Fortune "a silent weapon."
But why "silent?" Why isn't there much buzz around this guy?
Blame it on the numbers. Despite his stroke, Fortune hasn't been an elite scorer. His career average is 9.3 points a game and his high is 24 points, which came last year.
But there are explanations for that. For one, Kecoughtan has plenty of balance with four players averaging between nine and 17 points a game. So Thomas doesn't need, or even ask, Fortune to throw in 20 a night.
For two, both last season and this season, injuries have interrupted Fortune just when he had a good thing going.
Last Feb. 1, he was averaging 15.4 points a game when he was slammed into the wall against Gloucester. He ended up fracturing his left (non-shooting) wrist. Fortune tried playing through it but scored only 15 points in the next three games. He was done for the season.
Fortune got off to a good start as a senior by averaging 18 points over his first four games. But in a loss to Menchville on Jan. 6, he began experiencing back spasms. He put it out of his mind and kept playing, but it only got worse.
Against Phoebus on Jan. 13, it hurt so bad that Fortune knew he couldn't defend the athletic Williams. So, as much as he could, Thomas subbed him in for offense and out for defense. The next night in the Boo Williams Shootout, Fortune was held out of a loss to the Miller School.