Saint Mary’s transfer Evan Fitzner is a skilled and capable ‘added weapon’ for Indiana basketball next season

BYU guard Zac Seljaas, rear, falls over the back of Saint Mary's center Evan Fitzner (21) during the second half of a game this past season in Moraga, Calif. Fitzner will play his final season of college basketball with Indiana this coming season. (By The Associated Press)
Indiana University men's basketball coach Archie Miller calls a play during the first half of a game this past season against Maryland in Bloomington. (By The Associated Press)
Indiana University center De'Ron Davis (20) defends the shot of Howard forward Charles Williams (13) during a game this past season in Bloomington. (By The Associated Press)
Indiana University graduate transfer Evan Fitzner

Second-year Indiana University men’s basketball coach Archie Miller doesn’t have the definitive answers to some questions that will face him this coming season, particularly when it comes to assessing the frontcourt play of his team.

Will junior center De’Ron Davis be effective early this season following his Achilles’ injury suffered last January?

“That is a difficult surgery for anyone to come back from,” Miller said this spring. “A guy like De’Ron, who is that size and can put on some weight when he’s not allowed to do anything, it makes it a little bit more difficult.”

Will sophomore center Clifton Moore be ready to contribute after playing sparingly (he saw action in just nine games and a total of 43 minutes) last season?

Miller is surely hopeful regarding Moore’s ability, but until the youngster performs in a game situation, no one really knows for sure how impactful that he will be.

To alleviate both of those concerns, Miller didn’t waste time this spring in targeting Saint Mary’s transfer Evan Fitzner, who has proven that he can play at the highest level of college basketball and Miller didn’t beat around the bush in singing his praises recently.

“Evan was a guy that we targeted pretty early with his skill set,” Miller said of the 6-foot-10, 230-pound athlete. “He’s somebody that brings to the table skills that we really like.”

The Hoosier fans must “like” Fitzner’s skills, as well.

A recent video posted by the Hoosier basketball program of Fitzner working out has generated nearly 30,000 views and the graduate transfer displays mobility, agility, ball-handling and a perimeter shooting prowess that will absolutely help Indiana this coming season in his one year of eligibility.

“Those guys that graduate,” Miller said of the graduate transfers that are eligible immediately, “they find their niche.”

In a perfect world for Miller, Davis returns healthy (and in condition) by early November and plays alongside one of the best players in the country in senior forward Juwan Morgan and one of the better young athletes in Justin Smith along the frontcourt, with Fitzner coming off the bench at either the five or the four spots. However, a really positive situation could also be Davis teaming with Fitzner (playing at the four spot) and Morgan (at the three).

“He’s a great kid,” Miller said. “He’s going to be an added weapon for us.”

Fitzner has the strength to defend in the post but he also is an experienced perimeter shooter. He sank 26 3-pointers last season at a 40 percent rate.

“Evan is an experienced player, who will have the ability to help us because he helps our team become older,” Miller said upon signing Fitzner. “He is a career 40 percent-plus shooter from 3-point range and is someone we are going to look for to stretch the floor with his range.

“He’s a physical presence who brings much-needed depth to our frontcourt and his skill-set gives us versatility that will be invaluable.”

Davis was inconsistent with his production as a sophomore and coming off a serious injury it won’t be surprising if that is the case – at least early on – again this season.

Fitzner being able to play either the five or the four, and being able to start or come off the bench with experience, will be invaluable no matter how his role ends up playing out.

“The overall experience he gained at the high level he played over the last three years will be a tremendous asset to our program,” Miller said.

RECRUITING KEEPS ROLLING

Miller hit the mother-lode of recruiting in April when he landed 2018 Indiana Mr. Basketball Romeo Langford out of New Albany High School, who was the key component in the top-ranked recruiting class in the Big Ten Conference.

That positive momentum is carrying over into the 2019 class in that the Hoosiers remained in the running for one of the nation’s best guards recently.

Iowa high school star DJ Carton announced Sunday that the Hoosiers joined Michigan and Ohio State as his three finalists.

The 5-foot-11 guard is rated as the 17th-best prospect in the country.

Indiana signed 2018 Indiana All-Star guard Robert Phinisee out of McCutcheon High School in West Lafayette and also has junior Devonte Green on the roster, who would be a senior in Carton’s first year in Bloomington.

Technically, the Hoosiers only have two scholarships available for the 2019 class with the departure of Morgan and Fitzner. However, that could expand to more if players, such as Langford, declare for the NBA with eligibility remaining.

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