The foundation for the Fuller family was built on a parquet floor inside Clearwater High’s Jack Wilson Memorial Gymnasium.
That basketball court is where Jay Fuller and Angie Peshl met the first day of ninth grade P.E in 1989. Soon after, they were dating. The two remained a couple throughout high school.
Sports, particularly basketball, became their common ground. Angie watched all four years when Jay played for the Tornadoes (1989-93).
Their relationship became serious, so much that Jay wanted to propose in 1997.
He knew exactly where he wanted to pop the question: the hardwood court at Clearwater. Jay convinced then-Tornadoes coach Rudy Coffin to open the gym’s doors. Jay waited for Angie inside, then got on one knee.
The couple, now married, started building a family. They now have three children — Grace, Liv and JJ.
Basketball continued to play a dominant role in their lives. Liv was consumed by the sport. She tried skateboarding and other activities, but once she grabbed a basketball, nothing else came close.
Liv honed her skills night and day. She wore plenty of basketball attire, too. During Liv’s first communion, she sported a LeBron James jersey and gym shorts underneath her dress.
Even after darkness fell and her parents called her to come inside, Liv stayed outside, shooting and dribbling.
“Basketball means everything to me,” Liv said. “I not only love the sport, but it’s one of the things that makes me the happiest when I’m playing. I am constantly training, whether it’s a game, practice or skills training, I would say 6-7 days a week I’m playing and practicing.”
Her basketball teammates became her best friends. Liv developed the closest bond with Ace Sturdivant. They played on the same team in travel and in middle school.
The two vowed to play together in high school, too.
Trouble was, that initially meant not playing at Clearwater.
Ace planned on enrolling in a magnet program at Palm Harbor University. Liv, whose older sister went to PHU, was set to join her.
Then plans changed.
Ace was unable to get into the magnet program. So they decided to attend Clearwater.
“Everything just came about full circle,” Jay said. “Now, here we are, back at Clearwater.”
Once Liv officially enrolled two years ago, Jay told her about the significance of playing there, of how much that court was already a part of their family.
“I have heard the stories growing up,” Liv said. “Whenever we went to a Clearwater game my dad would say that’s where our family started. I just couldn’t figure out how he got in there for the longest time then he told me his old coach let him in one night.”
But that court is not the only one connected to the family. In the summer of 2019, the Fullers moved into a new home with a backyard big enough to build a basketball court.
“It’s a half-court and the dimensions are a little bit smaller than the ones in high school, but it allows Liv to work on whatever she needs to without having to go everywhere,” Jay said.
The backyard court even has a name: the “Full Court.”
Liv has used both courts to her advantage. The sophomore has developed into a go-to player for the Tornadoes and has led the program to its first state semifinal appearance since 2007.
On Thursday, Liv gets to play on the hardwood court at Lakeland’s RP Funding Center, something her father was unable to do during his high school career with the Tornadoes.
“It’s going to be a special day,” Jay said.