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IU's Fischer prepares for basketball opportunity

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For more on college sports, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at www.twitter.com/pdiprimio

Freshman has a 'winner' mentality

Thursday, September 19, 2013 - 8:35 pm

BLOOMINGTON — Luke Fischer is not Cody Zeller.

You know that, right?

For one thing, Fischer is more likely to shoot three-pointers.

Did you know that?

Hold that thought.

For the record, Fischer, one of six freshmen expected to make instant impact for Indiana this season, is not an All-America waiting to happen.

At least, not this year.

Fischer is almost certain to need a year or two to grow into a dominant role. He arrived as the nation's No. 94 player in the Class of 2013 if you believe Rivals.com, a national Internet recruiting service. Scout.com, another Internet recruiting service, had him at No. 79. ESPN100 put him at No. 34, the No. 4 center.

That's good, but not Zeller good.

Zeller was a top-15 player with one-and-done skills. He stayed two years before moving on to the NBA. He's a rookie with the Charlotte Hornets after being the overall No. 4 pick in the NBA draft.

Fischer isn't at that level. But he does share an attribute with Zeller that's impossible to teach — a winner's edge.

In his last two years at Wisconsin's Germantown High School, Fischer led his team to a 56-0 record and consecutive state titles. He was named Wisconsin's Mr. Basketball and Gatorade Player of the Year.

“He's a winner,” associate head coach Tim Buckley says.

Ditto, head coach Tom Crean said. Crean added that Fischer is motivated by the fact that, early on, he wasn't considered an elite recruit and didn't get elite camp invitations.

“He's got a little chip on his shoulder,” Crean says.

Fischer has Zeller size. He's listed at 6-foot-11 and 230 pounds, about an inch shorter and 10 pounds lighter than Zeller. Fischer has gained about 15 pounds since arriving in Bloomington last summer.

Like Zeller, Fischer can shoot from the outside. Unlike Zeller, Fischer is more willing to use his perimeter game. Zeller missed the only two college three-pointers he ever took, both last season.

“Luke is more likely, than the other big guys we've had here recently, to step out and shoot,” Buckley says. “He's got to get better at it, but he seems more comfortable at it than some of the other big guys.”

Of course, Crean didn't sign Fischer to launch three-pointers. Fischer will spend lots of time in the paint, which is why he's worked with strength coach Je'Ney Jackson to improve his size and strength.

So far, so good.

“He's gotten bigger and stronger,” Buckley says. “He's going to stretch and grow.”

Fischer has learned, as all freshmen do, that he doesn't know as much about basketball as he thought.

“I found out so much stuff I had to learn, stuff you thought you knew in high school, but it's totally different at the college level. Getting my all-around game better is what I'm focused on,” he says.

Like all IU freshmen, Fischer has found inspiration from the NBA draft experiences of Zeller and Victor Oladipo. Oladipo went No. 2 to Orlando.

Both were blessed with athleticism and skill, but the difference was their work ethic. Oladipo, in particular, used extra sessions to go from a lightly regarded high school senior to one of the nation's best players.

“It showed what hard work and dedication to this team can do,” Fischer says.

Those extra workouts remain voluntary for Indiana players — to a point. Coaches have made it clear that excellence, whether with an individual or a team, doesn't happen without doing more.

“Their workout ethics have been passed down,” Fischer says. “We're expected to do that stuff.”

IU's Big Ten championship season, which included 10 weeks spent at No. 1, was another inspiration.

“Watching them last year got me excited knowing that I would be playing on that court and playing with some of those guys,” Fischer says.

Crean didn't recruit Fischer to sit the bench. Fischer has to be a big contributor, especially with the Hoosiers' lack of inside experience. Sophomore forward Jeremy Hollowell played the most of the returning big men last year (he averaged 2.8 points and 2.06 rebounds in 9.7 minutes). Forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea and center Peter Jurkin saw limited action.

Crean says it's “very important that (Fischer) play right away.”

The Hoosiers basically return two starters — point guard Yogi Ferrell and swingman Will Sheehey — from last year. With seven newcomers, including senior transfer Evan Gordon, they project as a top-25 team, but not as a Big Ten favorite. Michigan State has the early edge with Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin getting attention.

IU and Iowa are right behind them.

"I think for as young as we are, we'll be a pretty good team," Fischer says.

Recruiting update

Is IU's blank recruiting slate for the Class of 2014 about to end?

We're about to find out.

Five-star shooting guard Isaiah Whitehead out of New York City is set to pick his school today. St. John's is considered the favorite, but Indiana, Seton Hall, Pittsburgh and Minnesota also have a chance. He's ranked No. 14 nationally in the Class of 2014 by Rivals.com, a national Internet recruiting service.

Also, four-star Virginia guard Robert Johnson will make his choice between IU, North Carolina, Virginia and Florida State on Friday. The 6-3 Johnson is the nation's No. 42 player. He was especially impressive during the travel ball season as well as the NBPA Top-100 Camp.