Much has changed for Luke Fischer in 12 months.
A year ago at this time, the Germantown native was two days removed from playing in a 79-72 loss to Notre Dame as a member of the Indiana Hoosiers, logging 10 minutes off the bench, contributing a rebound, an assist, a foul and three missed shots to the box score.
His last game for Tom Crean would be played on Dec. 22, 2013, when he scored 10 points and had three blocks off the bench against Kennesaw State, the final non-conference game on Indiana’s schedule last year.
Fischer played in 13 games for the Hoosiers as a true freshman, and in 10 minutes per night he averaged 2.8 points and 2.1 rebounds per game.
Shortly after the new year, he arrived in Milwaukee to play for Marquette University and head coach Buzz Williams. A little over two months later, in late March, Williams was gone, off to Virginia Tech.
About 11 days later, Fischer stood behind Steve Wojciechowski as the long time Duke University assistant coach was introduced as his third head coach in less than five months.
Like many involved with the program, Fischer’s head was spinning.
But, what the 6-foot, 11-inch Fischer did know about his new coach was that while at Duke, Wojciechowski had a strong national reputation for developing big men.
The list is impressive, beginning with an undersized 6-foot, 8-inch center in Carlos Boozer. Then he worked with 6-9 Shelden Williams, 6-10 Josh McRoberts, the 6-10 Plumlee brothers (Miles and Mason), 6-11 Ryan Kelly and even the contributions of 7-1 Brian Zoubek to a national title.
"If you look at it, if you really did your homework – again, there’s the truth, then there’s what the perception is – and the truth was is that every post guy that played here at Duke that didn’t transfer, every post guy that played for him, eventually became an NBA player with the exception of Bryan Zoubek," Duke assistant coach Jeff Capel said. "And that’s because he got hurt. He got hurt and never played again."
So, all Fischer could do was get to work.
In his initial bio with Indiana, he was listed at 230 pounds. Marquette lists him at 245. And, since he’s only been practicing for the better part of a year, Fischer feels his game has improved dramatically in one specific aspect.
"I think just a presence in the post has gotten a lot better," he said. "With our new staff, they’ve taught me a lot of new things about being a post player and some new moves. Hopefully I’ll be able to go through all of that stuff fin the game and get those to work.
"It’s stuff that they’ve seen and proved work plenty of times and there’s no doubt that I can make that work, too."
And it’s not like there wasn’t a solid base to build off of. Coming out of Germantown High School, Fischer was a Parade All-American, and according to ESPN's recruiting rankings, he was considered the 34th best player in the country – and the top player in Wisconsin – when he committed to Indiana.
"I think he's been eager for a long time – I’m hoping when he hits the floor he’s not over-eager" Wojciechowski said. "He’s going to have to work through some of that, some of the timing, some of the rust that’s there. You can practice as hard as he does and game situations are just different. I’m hoping he’ll make a quick transition. We’re certainly excited that he’s going to be with us finally."
Wojciechowski feels Fischer’s practice has paid off to the point where he has developed into a player that can the Golden Eagles can run their offense through in the post, and, coupled with his ability to pass, can create better spacing for the perimeter players.
Fischer is definitely excited as well, and he’s ready to show out.
"It should be a fun atmosphere," he said about tonight’s game against Arizona State University, which not only be his Marquette debut, but a home game that many in his hometown can get to.
"I love it to have it here. This is great. Unfortunately it wasn’t the Wisconsin game – that would’ve been something – but it’s great to have it close to home and at a time when everyone can come and watch."
As the Marquette program finally welcomes in Fischer as an on-court contributor, Wojciechowski addressed the departures of John Dawson and Deonte Burton.
The two left the program at the conclusion of Marquette’s first semester on Dec. 14.
"I wasn't worried about it – I thought it could be something that was good," Wojciechowski said of the pair’s decision. "I mean, we want people who want to be here at Marquette and who are fully invested in what we’re doing and that’s not a knock on those guys, we wish them the best of luck, but when you go int he locker room and know everybody’s on the same page about what we’re trying to accomplish as a group, and our group goals are first, that’s a good feeling. And I think everybody senses that."
The first-year head coach then said he would not place any restrictions on where the duo could transfer too, including Virginia Tech to play for former Golden Eagles head coach Buzz Williams or in-state rivals such as the University of Wisconsin, the UW-Milwaukee and UW-Green Bay (the Big East does not allow transfers between programs).
"Look, they don’t want to be here and they can go anywhere," Wojciechowski said. "My sole and total focus is on the guys who do want to be here. I don't put conditions on anyone. They're kids. They have the right to do with what they want. I’m not a big believer in that. They can go play anywhere."
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.