BYU basketball: Chase Fischer resurrects career with Cougars
Chase Fischer took Horace Greeley at his word, albeit about 150 years late.
The former state player of the year in boys basketball from Ripley, Fischer certainly took the circuitous route to success in the "Go West, young man'' style.
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His college career started slowly, but it's finally flourished thousands of miles from home in Provo, Utah, with BYU.
After originally committing to Marshall while in high school and then spending two less-than-fulfilling seasons at Wake Forest, Fischer has become a force in the West Coast Conference, home of NCAA Tournament regulars Gonzaga and St. Marys.
Now a 6-foot-3 senior guard, Fischer leads BYU in scoring at 18.0 points per game as his team tries to build on its resume for its own possible NCAA Tournament berth. The Cougars stand 16-7 following Saturday night's victory against Pepperdine.
Given the freedom to launch 3-pointers like he did in his Mountain State Athletic Conference days, Fischer began the weekend tied for 10th in the nation with 70 long balls. He's also shooting 80 percent at the foul line for the free-wheeling Cougars.
Fischer admits that his long, atypical journey to Provo has proven a perfect fit for his frenetic skill set.
"It's really a high-tempo offense,'' Fischer said in a telephone interview, "and coach [Dave] Rose gives his players a lot of freedom, and BYU's had a lot of great players. The wide-open style and ball movement is kind of what sparked my interest, and obviously they shoot a whole lot of 3s. We never really worry about the shot clock unless it's at the end of the game or we're on defense. The first really good look you get, certain guys can fire it. If not, it's move the ball and attack.''
How Fischer wound up in Utah takes a little explaining.
Mark Pope, an assistant coach who had originally helped recruit Fischer to Wake Forest, departed for a position on the BYU staff in 2011 before Fischer ever played a game in the ACC.
When Fischer's playing time eventually began to dwindle at Wake and he decided to transfer after his sophomore season, Pope urged the coaching staff at BYU to take a look at the kid from West Virginia.
Several schools were trying to land Fischer at that point, including Florida Gulf Coast, Valparaiso, Ball State and Wofford. Fischer, who had never been anywhere close to that part of the country, wasn't even sure he wanted to make a visit to BYU. But with the urging of his father, John, he reluctantly scheduled a trip.
"I had no clue [about BYU],'' Fischer said. "Obviously, I knew about Jimmer Fredette and they had good teams all during my junior and senior years in high school. Everybody knew who they were because of him. But really, I had no clue and had never visited this area. When I came out, it was just a perfect fit. It was kind of weird that it was so good.''
Rose recalled that Fischer was "a little bit hesitant" when the Cougars started recruiting him because he had never been out west before and had some misconceptions about BYU and its sponsoring institution, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"So we tried to correct those things," Rose said to the Salt Lake Tribune. "But what he really liked was our style of play. ... That's all he was looking for. He was looking for a place where he could be with really great teammates and have an [uptempo] style that would fit his game. I think this is a better fit for him."
Fischer spent his first year at BYU, the 2013-14 season, sitting out following his transfer from Wake. It allowed him to adjust to his new team as well as his new surroundings.
He's been one of the few non-Mormons on the Cougars squad in his time there, and had to learn about the student code, which forbids alcohol, coffee, tea, tobacco and premarital relations, among other things.
"It's definitely different,'' Fischer said. "No other college really has that. I know how when most people go to college, they like to go out and party. It's kind of the norm. But here it's different. For me, I'm the type of guy who had no problems giving any of that up. It's a great environment because all I focus on is school and basketball, and it's working out for me. It's what I needed in my red-shirt year.
"It's been an easy transition for me. I fell off the face of the earth and deleted a lot of my social media and worked on my game. It reinvigorated my basketball career. It's different, for sure, but I enjoy my time here. It's an experience a lot of people from a small town in West Virginia never get to have.''
He's certainly made an impression on the people of Provo. Fischer has served as a team captain in each of his two seasons of play there, just like he finished his days at Wake, where he was selected as a captain for his sophomore season.
Fischer admitted that there were a few low points for him personally in between his time at Wake Forest and the resumption of his career at BYU, but he didn't let it affect his outlook.
"Definitely my second year at Wake,'' he said. "It was a low point just because it was tough to put a lot of work into my freshman and sophomore years. My freshman year was decent by ACC standards [6.3 points in 26.1 minutes per game]. I had worked on my game and my body, and I came into my sophomore year really ready to contribute, and it didn't work out because of numbers and game and style of play.
"The low point is when you get your confidence taken from you, but my family was really big in that. My dad had worked me out in high school and ultimately kind of became my pep-talk guy. I turned to my mom, dad and brother. I'm a really confident guy, and I never lost my confidence in full, but I put myself out there.''
Fischer isn't lighting up scoreboards like he did in and around the Kanawha Valley when he played for coach Craig Harmon at Ripley, but few could.
He averaged 32.1 points as a high school junior and 37.0 as a senior, each time leading the state. He finished with 2,215 points for the Vikings, 10th-most in West Virginia preps history, nudging aside names like Ron "Fritz'' Williams of Weir and Brett Nelson of St. Albans for the No. 10 spot. Besides being the state player of the year as a senior, he was also selected to the first team of the Parade All-America squad in 2011.
It didn't quite work out at Wake, but his move out west has gone better than anyone could have imagined, as BYU's run-and-gun style looks more like the way he played in high school.
"Nothing was given to me here,'' Fischer said. "Coach Rose said I had the opportunity to come in and have an impact behind the 3-point line. From there, it developed into being an all-around scorer, just wide open.
"Defensively, it's at a much higher level [than high school] and more goes into it. And defense at the college level has changed this year [with new rules]. It's similar just because of the freedom aspect. A lot of good players get lost in the mix with taking big shots, and not as much freedom is given at the high school level. Coach Rose is such a good coach here and the team's players have so much freedom -- and that's big for me. It reminds me a little bit of high school.''
Fischer admits he hasn't been back to West Virginia for about a year and a half, but got some home support over the weekend as his parents visited the Provo campus for home games against Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine. He's aware that the current Ripley team is off and running itself to a 13-2 record under first-year coach Evan Faulkner that includes wins over South Charleston and George Washington.
"I'm glad they're having success,'' he said. "I'd like to catch a game, but I can't get away. I'm hoping to come back this summer.
"I'm happy for Ripley. I love that place. I know we went through some ups and downs there, but those four years were nice because I was able to build a foundation there. I talk to Coach Harmon about all the times we had there.''
As for the future, Fischer has thought about what he'd like to do when his BYU playing career ends in the months to come. He realizes that there are many pro options now available to players besides the NBA, but still has dreams of one day cracking an NBA roster.
"I definitely want to keep playing,'' he said. "Whatever happens, happens. Hopefully, I'll get into an NBA camp, maybe play on a summer league team, see where that takes me. I'll get an agent and follow that [path].
"I could definitely play overseas. My next career could be as a coach, so I don't want to play until I'm 40 and become a journeyman. But I think I'm a good player and I'm having a good year and I think I can make some money playing this game. It's a good life, and I really enjoy basketball and the places it can take you.''
As for right now, Fischer and BYU hope to make it back to the NCAA Tournament, and already own a coveted victory over WCC kingpin Gonzaga this season. In the lone NCAA game of his career, Fischer gunned in 23 points (including six 3s) in a 94-90 loss to Mississippi last season.
He knows the Cougars need to pull a few more upsets to make their goal happen again.
This article was written by Rick Ryan from The Charleston Gazette, W.Va. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.