ANDERSON, Ind. - Anderson native Maurice “Kojak” Fuller is using his life experience to reach out to kids more than 20 years after the peak of his career.
Fuller was named Mr. Basketball in 1993, and only six years later, he began serving a 20-year prison sentence.
Fuller is trying to change lives and make a difference. He hopes his story reaches teens who are already in the Anderson juvenile detention system.
Fuller got his start in Anderson, practicing jump shots in his grandmother’s back yard. He went on to become Anderson High School's all-time leading scorer.
He was so good that he earned the state’s top high school basketball honor, Mr. Basketball.
Fuller said it was addictive to receive that type of attention. The positive attention faded after Madison County authorities arrested Fuller for selling cocaine near the same school where he had become a local star.
"Kojak wanted to go to trial and I think he made the statement, at the time, that no jury in Anderson was going to send Mr. Basketball to prison," Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings said.
A jury did convict Fuller and he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
"I allowed man's words to build me up, to put me on a pedestal. They put me on a pedestal based on what I've done, which was play basketball, and when I wasn't playing basketball any longer, when I made my mistake, than the words that put me up on a pedestal were the same words that pointed the finger," Fuller said.
Fuller said those that pointed fingers didn’t know his inner struggles.
"No one really took enough interest in me to really see what was going on inside of me," he said.
He said inside he was tormented by sexual abuse and the lack of reaction from his mother and grandmother.
"The two people that I trusted to provide and protect me, you know, I told them and nothing happened, so it was like that gave my cousin license to touch me," Fuller said.
Fuller said he turned to basketball and girls to cope.
"I'm saying to myself as a 12-year-old boy, man I'm not like this, I'm not like this, so to help me understand that I'm not like that, I said to myself, every lady I come in contact with her to convince myself I'm not like that," he said.
By 1999, Fuller was serving time in prison and left five children behind.
He said his relationship with God started behind bars and news of it seven and a half years into his sentence led to his early release.
"I think he caught on sooner, some people don't, but I think he figured it out with the sentence that he had served and we brought him back into the community," Cummings said.
Now when he mentors children, Fuller tells them to follow the light of God when faced with adversity. He tells them it doesn’t dim like a spotlight.
"You have to make sure you keep yourself away from temptation the best you can, because if not, we'll end up back there right back in the flood zone," Fuller said.
By the end of his high school basketball career, Fuller scored 2,062 points which is a record he still holds today.