On Dec. 27, San Diego (Calif.) Francis W. Parker forward Evan Fitzner squared off with Richmond (Calif.) Salesian and the pride of the Pride, five-star Jabari Bird. While Salesian romped to a 56-37 win that day in the Torrey Pines Tournament, Fitzner was still more than taken with the California signee's ability and presence.
"His athleticism was pretty ridiculous," said Fitzner. "We were kind of in awe of him a little bit, because we don't play against many players of his athletic caliber. He's a very good player, and it would be really cool to play with him."
Depending on how long Bird stays in Berkeley, the 6-foot-9, 210-pound three-star prospect may just have that chance. Among the schools he's been talking to the most lately, Cal is right up there among the most persistent.
"Right now, mostly Colorado, Cal, Oregon State, New Mexico, USC and Arizona State a little bit, too, are the schools I've heard from recently," Fitzner said. "It's picked up since the college season ended."
Fitzner has spoken frequently with Bears assistant Gregg Gottlieb, both during and after his high school season.
"He's been giving me lots of tips and stuff, especially during the high school season, so he's been checking in on my progress," Fitzner said. "I've been working pretty hard since the season ended, trying to get bigger and everything, getting ready for the summer season. He's been giving me tips, stuff to work on. Obviously, my body, I need to be getting stronger, and I've been doing a lot for that. I've been doing a lot of weight room work. He also said he'd like to see me play a lot harder the whole game. For that, I've been trying to get in better cardio shape, to where I can play the whole game."
Fitzner figures he averaged around 15 points and 10 rebounds per game for the Lancers this season, and he's working to increase those numbers through the summer and into his senior campaign.
"I've been gaining a lot of muscle, and I've been trying to eat a lot, too," said Fitzner, who has already started practicing with the Double Pump AAU team in Los Angeles every weekend, with an eye for his first tune-up tournament two weeks from now.
"I think not next weekend, but the weekend after that. I think we're going to L.A. for two. One is kind of just a tune-up tournament before the contact period and then another during the contact period before we go to Vegas," said Fitzner, who will participate in the Fab 48 in Sin City.
During the season, Fitzner was transfixed by Cal's late-season run and its 5-12 upset against UNLV during the second round of the NCAA Tournament, focusing primarily on big men Richard Solomon and Robert Thurman.
"I was paying a lot of attention. I watched almost every one of their games this season, and it was really exciting to see how successful they were," Fitzner said. "(The post play) was impressive, and that's definitely what I was looking at, but the team as a whole coming together, they had a really good year."
Though Fitzner has yet to formulate a top five or a top three, he said that the Bears will almost assuredly be among them.
"They're definitely one of the top schools that I'm interested in right now," Fitzner said. "I haven't really cut it down to a top three or anything like that, but they're definitely up there. I really like Cal."
Fitzner Takes Tips to Heart
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