Fuller & Miller Donatucci Namesake
Bennie Fuller is the all-time leading scorer in Arkansas boys’ high school basketball history and ranks fourth on the national scoring list (as of 2015). Fuller scored 4,896 points at the Arkansas School for the Deaf in Little Rock (Pulaski County) from 1968 to 1971. In 1971, Fuller scored 102 points in a game against Leola (Grant County). Fuller is third nationally on the per-game scoring average list (50.9 points per game during the 1970–71 season).
Bennie Fuller was born on March 13, 1951, the son of Tammy Fuller, who worked at the Pine Bluff Arsenal, and Birdie Missouri Fuller. Fuller grew up near Hensley (Pulaski County), where he learned to shoot a basketball into a hoop made from a bicycle wheel. By his senior season in high school, college coaches were filling the stands at the School for the Deaf to watch the Class B team play. Fuller’s 102 points on January 19, 1971, against Leola are the most points ever scored by a deaf high school player in a certified varsity game.
Fuller chose Pensacola when the school also offered a scholarship to Donnie Nutt, the nephew of Houston Nutt Sr., the coach at the School for the Deaf. No other school could offer Fuller a personal interpreter, a role Donnie Nutt, who understood sign language, could play. Pensacola Junior College also offered a vocational trade course in technical typesetting that interested Fuller. Fuller averaged more than thirty points per game in 1971–72, and Nutt averaged more than twenty points per game, even though Pensacola only went 7–18 that season. Jim Atkinson was replaced as head coach at the end of the season, and Fuller and Nutt found their roles reduced the next season as the Pirates went 26–4.
Fuller received an associate’s degree after two years. He transferred to the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), where he played for the Golden Lions. After receiving a bachelor’s degree from UAPB, Fuller taught at the Arkansas School for the Deaf for several years before beginning a long career in Oklahoma with the U.S. Postal Service.
In January 2013, the Arkansas School for the Deaf named its basketball court for Fuller. In February 2014, Fuller was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
The three players ahead of him on the national high school scoring list are from Louisiana. In Arkansas, no one comes close to Fuller for career points. Jacob Roark of Concord (Cleburne County) ranks second after Fuller with 3,619 points from 2011 to 2014, and James Anderson of Junction City (Union County) is third with 3,238 points from 2004 to 2007.
Ronda Jo (Miller) Donatucci
Ronda Jo attended and starred at the Minnesota School for the Deaf (MSAD) where she won the high school national title in 1995 along with another USADB inductee, Ronda Johnson. She went to Gallaudet where she played for Gallaudet's women’s basketball team which reached to NCAA Division III tournament's sweet 16 round, a first in the program's history. Miller flourished athletically leading the Gallaudet Bison to two Division III Women’s Basketball championship appearances, leaving her name etched into the NCAA record books as a leader in rebounding (1,545 rebounds), third in scoring (2,656 points) and third in blocked shots (373). She was inducted into the Gallaudet Hall of Fame in 2008 and her jersey was retired in 2014.
Shortly after college, Miller made history as the first deaf player to try out for a Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) team. Although she did not land a spot on the Washington Mystics, she was cut before the final roster was announced. Miller played basketball internationally for the Herlev women's team in Denmark, where she led the league in rebounding and helped her team win its European championship, and was voted best foreign player in the Denmark Elite Series League.
Since retiring from international basketball, Ronda Jo also played in 7 National Tournaments for USADB for MinnePaul averaging 22.3 points per game, winning 3 championships; voted to 1st All-Star teams 5 times (2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, and 2010) and was voted Most Valuable Player in 2004. Currently, she is the Director of Student Life at the Minnesota State Academies in Faribault, Minnesota and is enjoying watching her daughters, Grace and Lobelia (eight and five) pick up the game of basketball.