DWU's Fitzgerald named GPAC player of the week
SIOUX CITY, Iowa -- Things didn't start out the way Dakota Wesleyan University guard Colby Fitzgerald hoped they would. Normally a lethal outside shooter, the junior transfer from the University of South Dakota couldn't get his shot to fall early...
SIOUX CITY, Iowa -- Things didn't start out the way Dakota Wesleyan University guard Colby Fitzgerald hoped they would.
Normally a lethal outside shooter, the junior transfer from the University of South Dakota couldn't get his shot to fall early in the season as the Tigers opened with an inconsistent 2-2 start. However, things quickly turned around for Fitzgerald and his teammates. DWU hasn't lost since, and, especially in the last week, the 6-foot-3 guard has become a scoring machine.
"At the beginning of the year it was kind of rocky because we had so many new players and so many roles we were trying to figure out," Fitzgerald said. "We didn't really know what we needed to do. There were a lot of questions that needed to be answered. Now we got things figured out and we're on a roll right now."
Fitzgerald has been a huge reason for that roll, especially in the Tigers trio of wins last week. The Dell Rapids native averaged 28 points and four rebounds per game as DWU pushed its winning streak to six games, and for that he was named the Hauff Mid-America Sports Great Plains Athletic Conference men's basketball player of the week Monday for the week of Nov. 26 to Dec. 3.
"I guess I never really think a whole lot about individual things, but it's a good accomplishment and I'm just and I'm glad to see him, offensively, really kind of break out a little bit from his shooting slump," said DWU head coach John Hemenway. "He's really led us the last three games and it's great to see."
Fitzgerald made plenty of shots over the course of the last week, but none were bigger than the overtime three at Doane. The shot came off a set play that Hemenway called in the huddle, and he had no doubt who he wanted taking the final shot. Plus, Hemenway added that it was Fitzgerald's man who hit the shot for Doane to force overtime, so he needed a little retribution.
"Colby also gave up the threepointer to tie the game, so he had to make up for that a little bit," Hemenway said. "It was a big shot. I was trying to get it to Colby because Colby's very confident and he kind of wants the ball in the clutch. He was coming off a double screen and Preston (Broughton) and Scott (Nelson) both set a screen and if they would not have set the screen, Colby would not have been open. Andrew (Lasche) also made a good pass on that as well. The play was run to perfection and Colby obviously was the most important part of that by making the shot."
The shot seemed to break Doane's back. The Tigers opened double overtime with an 11-1 run and never looked back as they stayed perfect in conference play at 3-0.
"I'm just happy I hit the shot," Fitzgerald said. "I probably would've been pretty disappointed if I missed it. I knew once we sent it into double overtime we had the game. I think that was the dagger."
Part of the reason Fitzgerald has been on fire lately is that he's diversified his game. Early in the season, he spent a lot of time settling for jumpers, and when they weren't falling, both he and the Tigers were in trouble. During the winning streak, he's found a great deal of success getting to the basket by putting the ball on the floor, curling around screens and beating the defense down the floor on the break. Getting some of those easy baskets has helped him get into a rhythm, and they the entire DWU offensive flow.
"It seems like if I can get inside shots, it really starts to open the whole offense up," Fitzgerald said. "It seems like once I get a couple easy ones it gets the jitters out and helps me get in the flow of the game."
Hemenway said that with transfers, it can sometimes take them a full season or two to get acclimated to their new team and new surroundings. The fact that Fitzgerald is already playing so well and earning a GPAC individual honor just 10 games into his Tiger career is a huge bonus for DWU.
"We're only in 10 games here so he's adjusted pretty quickly," Hemenway said. "To be able to adjust in just 10 games, that's a good thing, that's impressive. Hopefully he continues to play well from here on out."