Less than a week before he boarded a plane to return to Provo for fall semester, Chase Fischer was working out at home in Ripley, W.V. Steve Hunt, an assistant coach on Fischer’s high school team, watched him sink jumper after jumper.
Silky smooth, just like when he was in high school.
“I was telling his dad, that’s the whole Chase,” Hunt said. “He was just ripping shots. Chase told me when he was playing pick-up games out there in Utah, and he gets his shot going, he was the best one on the court. He wasn’t being cocky, just confident.”
Fischer, who transferred to BYU from Wake Forest in May of 2013 and sat out last season, ranks 10th on the all-time West Virginia high school scoring list. Making the transition from high school star to college player can be difficult, and Fischer struggled to find a role in two seasons at Wake Forest.
How could a 37-points-per-game scorer lose his confidence?
And more importantly, could he get it back?
Ripley is a town of around 3,500, nestled in the Appalachian foothills of the Ohio River about 40 miles north of Charleston. Fischer played at Ripley High School in West Virginia’s highest classification, AAA. Ripley has 977 students in four grades, often competing against schools twice its size.
Something clicked between Fischer’s sophomore and junior year that turned the long-distance specialist into a scoring machine.
“His first couple of years he was just a 3-point shooter,” said Rick Ryan, who covers prep sports for the Charleston Gazette. “Between playing on AAU and travel teams, he got a little bit stronger, a little bit quicker.”
Chase Fischer was a big deal in Ripley.
He averaged 32 points per game as a junior and committed to Wake Forest. In the first game of his senior year at Ripley, he scored 58 points against St. Albans on 20-of-31 from the field, including 12-of-22 from the 3-point line.
“I don’t want to say he had unlimited range, but in a lot of games he’d surprise his defender and pull up from 25-to-27 feet out, well beyond the 3-point line, and make some early 3s,” Ryan said. “That allowed him a little bit more room to drive.”
Hunt remembered another game in Fischer’s senior year against perennial power Wheeling Park.
“Our gym was packed, people were standing against the wall,” Hunt said. “They beat us 102-96 but Chase had 53 points. He was scoring in so many different ways. Wheeling Park had some unbelievable athletes, and we almost beat them. It was one of the best games ever at Ripley.”
Fischer averaged 37 points per game as a senior, scoring 40 or more points nine times and more than 50 points four times in 24 games. He is one of only four West Virginia prep stars to earn Parade All-American honors.
Fischer’s scoring ability didn’t translate in the Wake Forest system. Former Air Force coach Jeff Bzdelik wanted a deliberate pace and used Fischer almost exclusively as a spot-up 3-point shooter. Hunt made the trip to Winston-Salem, N.C., to watch Fischer play and didn’t see the confident scorer he’d coached in high school.
“Chase just didn’t fit,” Hunt said.
As a freshman, Fischer averaged 6.3 points per game and shot 32 percent from the 3-point line. His sophomore season he averaged 5.4 points and shot 42 percent from beyond the arc, second on the team.
Even though he had been voted a team captain by his teammates, he began to look for a system that would better suit his skill set.
BYU assistant coach Mark Pope, a former Wake Forest assistant, was aware of Fischer and when he heard the former Ripley star was going to transfer, the connection was made.
“He called me once I decided to transfer, but I wasn’t interested in BYU at all,” Fischer said. “I loved Jimmer Fredette, but I didn’t know anything else about BYU other than it was in Utah. But Coach Pope was persistent. He called day and night. Coach (Dave) Rose and Coach Pope flew out. I met with them and it was really good. They had me out for a visit and I committed a couple of days after that.
“The BYU style of play is perfect for my game. I really felt a connection as a person with the players and the coaching staff. They showed me film and I worked out with Tyler Haws. Coach Rose and the staff are world class. They have an awesome arena and a great fan base. It’s a great basketball school.”
Fischer is not a member of the LDS Church and said he didn’t know much about Mormons or the BYU's Honor Code until his commitment.
“I’m pretty big into my faith. I’m a non-denominational Christian,” Fischer said. “About 99 percent of the people at BYU are Mormon and it’s kind of awkward when someone asks where I went on my mission. But it wasn’t a hard transition at all. The values out here are good. It’s sure different than any other college in America so it was an adjustment.”
Fischer spent part of the summer rehabbing from knee surgery.
“I had surgery for a torn meniscus,” Fischer said. “It had been lingering for a while. I tore it about a year and a half ago but I was playing on it. Now I feel better than I’ve ever felt. I was dealing with so much pain for so long. I was still playing at a high level, but it’s great that I don’t have to deal with that daily pain.”
Fischer said he also changed his eating habits, making healthier decisions and lifting weights to help his game.
“It’s been a blur,” Fischer said. “It’s been a long year and tough sometimes. I think I really used it to mature. I’ve learned to bring it every day. I’ve gotten a lot stronger. At Wake Forest I don’t think I got to fully show what I can do at this level. I think I have an edge this year. I have something to prove. I’m hungry.”