Feb. 12, 2009

By Lara Boyko
Special to NCAA.com

A playbook is essential for getting through a season, but for 6-foot junior forward Rachele Fitz from Marist, another essential must read has nothing to do with basketball.

“I go on web sites like Style.com,” said Fitz. “I love Vogue and how it is so thick and contains so many pictures and photographers with their pictures in there. I also like the celebrity gossip magazines where they talk about what the stars are wearing. (Coach Brian Giorgis) is not upset that I carry around fashion magazines as long as when it comes game time I know the plays.”

While fashion may be her true love in life, basketball has been running a close second for this Naismith early season watch list candidate for a log time.

“I started playing when I was in second grade,” Fitz said. “I have two older sisters and they were both active in playing basketball and volleyball, so I just started playing sports like any other kid where I would get involved and be social.

“My earliest memory of basketball is when I walked into my first practice I remember it being really strange how all of the girls looked at me. I was younger than the rest of them and not sure why I was put on their recreation league team, but I just remember them not liking me since I was so young, which (stunk).”

Yet even after basketball starting to play a prominent role in her life, knowing the latest styles and trends has always been in the forefront of her mind.

“Yes, fashion pretty much is the real love of my life,” Fitz said. “Ever since I was little, I’ve always liked to go shopping. Then when I was in high school I really enjoyed my art classes where I could paint or mold or working with pastels. I found a book called ‘Fashion Illustration For Designers’ and after looking at it and being able to see how people draw fashion figures, it really got me interested in incorporating fashion design into my art classes. All of my art projects were focused around that and my art teacher was ok with it as she knew I would have to submit a portfolio to schools, so she was helpful in my sketching and designs.”

Fitz has developed such an eye for what’s in vogue off the court that it was just last summer when she was able to experience the industry first hand.

“The summer I interned for a company on Seventh Avenue called Muse and Anthracite,” said Fitz. “Muse sells to stores like Macy’s, Dillard’s, Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue and a ton of other companies.

“Anthracite was a specialty jacket company that sells to stores all over the country, but mainly specialty boutiques that specialized in higher-end market because they were fancy and flashy. I was there three times a week. I got to work with the design team, product development and marketing groups. Every day I was doing something different where I would go on sample runs, getting button holes made or zippers made, find the correct swatches, tulle or thread. It was cool. At the end, Muse got the opportunity to design a dress line for Sex and The City star Kristen Davis. It was really neat to see the new samples and designs for a star. It was really neat.”

Fitz’s eye for style has also been noticed by her friends.

“[Junior forward] Lynzee Johnson wants me to make her wedding dress one day and I have guy friends who want me to make them shirts or things for fashion shows,” Fitz said. “I have to turn them down because I don’t have enough time to get my own projects done.”

While Fitz and her teammates may have designs on returning to the NCAA Tournament this year, Fitz has some more long term designs she would like to see implemented on the basketball court as a whole.

“I would definitely change the armholes and the width of the jersey straps,” Fitz said. “I would make the uniform have a razorback top and make the armholes cut lower. The material that they use for uniforms now is better than when I came in, but the style definitely needs to change.”