Fitzner an important addition for Hoosiers

There’s a blue-chip guard, a top-100 wing, two other four-star prospects and an energetic forward to round things out.

The major scouting services consider Indiana’s 2018 signing class one of the 10 best recruiting hauls in the country, a group full of potential impact players that should fill needs both in the near and distant futures.

Yet one of Indiana’s most crucial off-season additions doesn’t factor into those rankings at all.

When second-year coach Archie Miller went about reshaping his roster for the 2018-19 season, he prioritized perimeter shooting. After Miller’s first year with the program, there’s no doubt the Hoosiers needed it.

Enter Evan Fitzner, a graduate transfer from St. Mary’s, who shot better than 41 percent from beyond the arc during his three seasons in the West Coast Conference.

Although other newcomers often — and rightfully — garner more attention on this year’s Indiana roster, Fitzner is a key addition. From Miller’s eyes, he may even be more than that, a player the Hoosiers will lean on for production and leadership as they aim to meet lofty preseason expectations.

Fitzner’s not a heralded incoming recruit, but he’s no less crucial to Indiana’s plans.

“Of all of our additions, he may be the most important,” Miller said. “(That’s) just due to the age that he comes with, the experience level in college basketball’s big scene, by winning as many games as he’s won, and he brings an offensive skill set that maybe was lacking a little bit from the ability to maybe have a fourth shooter on the floor, fifth shooter on the floor.”

There’s no doubt Indiana could use help from outside. Last season’s 3-point shooting percentage of .322 was the program’s worst mark since the NCAA’s universal implementation of the 3-point line more than three decades earlier.

This year, Miller believes he’s found a fix. In Fitzner, the IU coach has a player he believes can reliably stretch the floor and complement Indiana’s top options, forward Juwan Morgan and star guard Romeo Langford.

“He’s a bona fide game 3-point shooter,” Miller said.

After Fitzner made 41 percent of his 3-point attempts as a freshman, 43 percent of his tries as a sophomore and 40 percent of his long-distance looks as a junior, there’s no doubt that’s the case.

While Fitzner recognizes his role, along with IU’s need for more reliable 3-point shooting, the San Diego native has additional plans.

Namely, he wants to be known as more than a marksman.

The 6-foot-10, 225-pound veteran spent the bulk of his summer in Bloomington working with IU’s coaching staff to diversify his game. Fitzner credits assistant Ed Schilling for his efforts to make him a more complete player, one who can help IU in at least a few different areas this season.

“I’ve put on some weight since I’ve been here,” said Fitzner, who’s averaging 6.4 points and 3.5 rebounds for his career. “I think I can do some things down on the block now that I maybe didn’t do as much at St. Mary’s. I want to be a great rebounder and a great overall teammate.”

Fitzner’s fellow Hoosiers have already taken notice.

“I think people underestimate his post game, too,” forward De’Ron Davis said. “He has a real smooth and majestic postgame.”

Majestic?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Fitzner chuckled when told of Davis’ assessment, but appreciated the notion, nonetheless. Fitzner started 76 career games for the Gaels before losing his starting assignment early last season. A lot of work has gone into his overall skill set in recent months and he’s glad people have noticed.

“I’ve been working a lot down low in the post on my post moves,” Fitzner said. “I think my touch on the perimeter can translate into the post at times, shooting jump hooks and that kind of stuff. I just want to be physical down there. I guess ‘majestic’ is a good thing. I’d rather say I’m physical down there. We’ll see if we can change that.”

Change is something Fitzner is getting used to in all of its many forms.

Although this will be his first season in Miller’s pack-line defense, Fitzner said many of the defensive principles he played under at St. Mary’s are carrying over. Now, instead of guarding the undersized big men he saw in the WCC, Fitzner is preparing for some of the larger, more physical forwards he knows he’ll see throughout this season.

The biggest transition for Fitzner has been playing with the up-tempo speed Miller commands inside his offense. At St. Mary’s, the Gaels played a slower, halfcourt offense.

At IU, it’s much different.

“We didn’t get up and down a whole lot,” Fitzner said. “Here, Coach Miller wants to run. … The pace of the game has been the biggest basketball adjustment.”

Yet, some things remain the same.

Indiana wants Fitzner to shoot, and shoot often. Finding a player with his skill set was an off-season priority, and now that they have him, the Hoosiers believe Fitzner can become an impact player this season.

“He’s real smooth on and off the court,” Miller said. “The way he plays his game is real nice.”

2 comments

  1. Be interesting how CAM blends all of the individual talents this year. And how the guys accept their roles.

  2. Is his 225 lbs. before or after he gained some weight? Hopefully, it’s his weight when he arrived in B-town. If he can bang in the paint and shoot 3-pointers, he’ll be very valuable.

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