Fischer named NOW Player of the Year; Showalter claims coaches' honor

Joe Koshollek
Germantown's Luke Fischer keeps the ball away from Oshkosh North's Nick Bauer during the state semifinal game.
Published on: 3/23/2013

Germantown boys basketball coach and NOW Coach of the Year Steve Showalter remembers Jim Fischer telling him this story.

So it has to be true.

Fischer, the father of 7-0 Gatorade State Player of the Year, WBCA Mr. Basketball, North Shore Player of the Year and now NOW All-Suburban Player of the Year Luke Fischer, said it was about seven years ago, before the rapid ascent of the Warhawks hoops program had hit full speed.

It was a WIAA State Tournament, and Fischer had some extra tickets and everybody wanted to see what it was like. And there were enough tickets for two sets of impressionable young eyes to get a glimpse of things from the vantage point of the Kohl Center in Madison.

Nobody knows if there is a picture of this event, but it would be priceless if there was, because on that particular day at the state tournament, 11-year Luke Fischer, nowhere near his full height or capability sat next to 15-year old Ben Averkamp, the future two-time NOW Player of the Year, Gatorade State Player of the Year, Loyola of Chicago star and the original "King of the Middle" at Germantown.

"I remember that perfectly," chuckled Luke.

Apparently so, because Showalter remembers Jim Fischer telling him that Luke told him afterward "that someday I want to be like Ben."

"Luke looked up to Ben and wound up being like him," Showalter said.

Nice company to keep.

Emulating his idol

Averkamp led Germantown to its first two WIAA state tournament berths in 2008 and 2009. He set the school all-time scoring record at the time only to be passed by current all-time leader and Wisconsin Badger Zak Showalter and eventually Fischer (who finished second all-time with 1,191 points).

Fischer knew who the 6-8 Averkamp was, and idolized him as he was growing up, and Averkamp, a brilliant young man, who will one day be an orthopedic surgeon and who this year made second-team Academic All-American at Loyola, knew what he was looking at (and up to) in Fischer.

And there's just a little bit of wistful envy in his voice when he speaks of the Indiana-bound all-star Fischer, who led the Warhawks to a 56-game winning streak and not one, but two WIAA State D1 championships and who finished his varsity career with an 80-2 record.

"I do remember that day sitting together, too," said Averkamp of his time in the Madison stands with Fischer. "It was an interesting day because that spectacle (the state tournament) seemed to be so far off for us.

"And now look at what's happened."

Much indeed

The two battled in summertime open gyms after Averkamp's freshmen and sophomore years at Loyola. Coach Showalter wanted to toughen up the still-thin, still-growing Fischer against a physical and battled-tested individual like Averkamp.

"It was different for Ben," Showalter said. "He didn't quite have the talent around him that Luke did when he was here. Almost every game he was the best player on the court and even with some of the good players we had around him we would only win games by five or 10 points."

"If Ben didn't have a good game, we'd likely lose. We relied on Ben to do a lot. He was the key to our defense and then Luke became that guy. Ben was challenged all the time, so that's why he has all those shot-blocking records for us, but the mere threat of having Luke back there now for us (who is three or four inches taller than Averkamp), meant he didn't get challenged as much."

So that's why the Averkamp and Fischer beat on each other in the summer games.

"I enjoyed those games," Averkamp said. "I try not to compare him to myself, but it's amazing to see how much he's improved. It's helped that he's worked with coach (Showalter) so much. It's really aided in his development and growth."

"You saw that at the state tournament. How many 7-footers do you see hitting 18-foot jump shots?"

Fischer, who remembers being a frustrated 6-2 or so before his first growth spurt hit after his freshmen year ("I think I'm still growing a little bit," he said), is greatly appreciative of the time Averkamp spent with him.

"A huge help," said Fischer. "We never really talked before those open gyms, but then he came to them in the summer and I would guard him and he would guard me so we would both get tougher."

Becoming 'the man'

That was needed because after the graduation of Zak Showalter and three other starters from the 2012 state championship team, Fischer became the man, challenged by his ever-striving, ever-thinking-he's-the-underdog coach, to take the reins and make the 2012-13 team his own.

That he did, for despite constant double-and-triple teaming, gimmick defenses, slowdown tactics and occasional defensive mayhem that bordered on thugishness, he still averaged 21 points and became the number one offensive threat in the state only standing next to Dominican guard Duane Wilson and Onalaska swingman Matt Thomas.

He absorbed what Averkamp and his coach taught him and took it as far as he could.

He was the one everyone had to prepare for and took it all in with a grace and skill and an open, gregarious personality that drew everyone, including his teammates, to him.

And on top of it all, he laid the mantel of leadership on his broad shoulders and brought it home with another undefeated season, another state title.

"They both took it all in," said Showalter. "They both tried to make their teammates better. They were both locked in on winning."

And as for Fischer personally, the coach simply says this: "He did everything this year," Showalter said. "He improved in so many areas this year that I just didn't see a weakness."

Fischer, who is eternally grateful for all the tough-minded dirty work that defensive stalwarts like 6-6 forward Jon Averkamp and 6-7 forward Evan Wesenberg did for him this winter ("I'll probably be asked to do the same thing next year at Indiana," he said), just didn't see all the practice and all the hours in the gym, coming to this great a reward.

Just for fun, he will also soon play in the nationally-renown all-star tournament, the Summer Derby Classic in Indiana.

"I honestly didn't think things like this could happen," he said. "I knew I always wanted to play college ball, maybe UW-Green Bay or Milwaukee. I was trying to be realistic. I didn't see anything like this coming. The Big 10? Come on!"

And as for Fischer's thoughts of Germantown, the Showalters, the state titles and the guy (Averkamp) who sat next to him all those years?

"I'm going to take all these memories wherever I go," he said.

The Fischer File

Honors keep pouring in

ALL-SUBURBAN NOTES: Fischer becomes the fifth Germantown player to win Player of the Year honors in six years to go with Ben Averkamp in 2008 and 2009 and Zak Showalter in 2011 and 2012. Coach Steve Showalter now has won NOW Coach of the Year honors three times to go along with wins he claimed in 2007 and 2012 (shared). Coach Showalter has now improved his career record to 233-78 (.749 winning percentage) in 13 years.

FISCHER STATS: He scored 587 points for a 21 points per game mark and grabbed 264 rebounds (9.4 rpg). He shot 67 percent (245 of 365) from the field, with 10 3-pointers. He hit 87-of-132 free throws (66 percent), with 45 assists, 40 steals and 80 blocks.

WHAT ABOUT THAT CODY ZELLER THING?: Contrary to popular opinion, the link between Fischer and the Indiana All-American who shares his number (40) and general height is not something he created but is largely media-driven. "I don't know how it started. If he's around next year, I'll gladly give up the number," Fischer said. "I'll just be myself."

FISCHER'S TWITTER FOLLOWING: Bigfishy40; quite popular, with more than 4,800 followers.