Luke Fischer was officially introduced as a member of the Marquette University Golden Eagles basketball program on Tuesday afternoon in the Al McGuire Center, his long frame draped in a loose, light blue basketball long sleeve shirt.
Golden Eagles assistant coach Jerry Wainwright later joked about Fischer’s 230 pounds, that it’s not enough for his 6-foot, 11-inch frame, that the freshman has a ways to go before he could replace the current offensive tackles of Davante Gardner (290) and Chris Otule (275).
But while Fischer has about a year to pack on weight – he isn’t eligible to play for the Golden Eagles until mid-December – his presence at the McGuire center looms large over the state of Wisconsin.
Suddenly, with one decision, Marquette head coach Buzz Williams could look at the Class of 2013 and see on his roster the state’s No. 1 player in Fischer, its No. 2 player in Deonte Burton and its No. 4 player in Duane Wilson.
A late Christmas present, Wainwright said.
According to ESPN’s recruiting rankings, Fischer was considered the 34th best player in the country, followed by Burton (39th) and Wilson (53rd).
Even Fischer, a Germantown native, acknowledged that teaming up with the two Milwaukee natives was an attractive proposition.
"Definitely," he said. "We all know how each other play and instead of playing against each other we can play with each other and with all the great talent around this area, it'd be great to see us come together."
Now, Wilson has redshirted this season following a knee injury and Fischer can’t play this year either, but Wainwright said Fischer will be expected to contribute right away next year. And, with the struggles at the point guard spot, it can be assumed that Wilson will be, too.
Burton is seeing just over 14 minutes per game right now and is averaging just under seven points per game, but he is making an impact on defense – he is second on the team in steals (22) and in blocked shots (14). Wainwright called him a "fire hydrant," and he’s listed at the same weight as Fischer despite being seven inches shorter.
There is reason to be excited for the immediate future of the Golden Eagles with these three local products, but don’t think the best prep hoopsters in the state don’t notice where the top talent is landing.
While it’s true that 2007 Wisconsin Mr. Basketball Scott Christopherson (Iowa State) and 2009 Mr. Basketball Jeronne Maymon (Tennessee) transferred out shortly after arriving at Marquette, but memories are short – especially when it comes to high schoolers.
The best players from Dominican, Vincent and the power at Germantown are in downtown Milwaukee.
That is what’s new, and known.
The Wisconsin Badgers have six in-state players on the roster (including Germantown’s Zak Showalter, who is redshirting). Marquette now has five.
Supporters of both programs will say their crop is better – and Wisconsin has the advantage now in that their guys are healthy and contributing – but it was important for Williams and Marquette to land such a highly regarded player from in-state, but not Milwaukee.
Every college coach, in any sport, says recruiting their state is always priority one. You want the best players to stay home. (It’s one of the reasons why the University of Illinois can’t seem to get over the hump – all of the best players from Chicago leave.)
The Badgers and Golden Eagles have done a good job in keeping the homegrown talent here. Fischer was one that "got away" – but he soon found that being home was the better fit for him as a student-athlete.
Getting Fischer was like snagging Vander Blue and Wesley Matthews out of Madison – he's a great player out of an important high school program that once again proves that the Golden Eagles can cull talent from all over Wisconsin.
The Badgers and Golden Eagles are national programs – they can look anywhere for players – but you do want the best to stay in house, so to speak.
And in basketball, unlike perhaps any other sport in the NCAA, players like to play with guys they know, and they often recruit better than any coach ever could.
Fischer said Wilson was the first person he heard from when he announced he was going to Marquette.
"Me and him played against each other for a number of years, so right as he heard he texted me," Fischer said. "He said congrats and all that stuff and we've been hanging out a lot."
We’ll see what this leads to for Williams and Marquette going forward, but Fischer’s arrival may mean way more than just adding a talented stretch four to the lineup in 2014-15.
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.