Villanova's Fisher needs to step up his game

Corey Fisher could step up or disapper in the NCAAs.
Corey Fisher could step up or disapper in the NCAAs.
Posted: March 15, 2011

He is the enigma of this Villanova basketball team, as talented offensively as any guard who has rolled through the program since Jay Wright has been here. He is a playground legend, having scored 105 points in a summer league game in the Bronx last August, but he has disappeared lately, dogged by tendinitis in his knee and the weight of his own exorbitant expectations.

Corey Fisher wants to be Scottie Reynolds. He wants to be Kyle Lowry, and Randy Foye. He is good enough, smart enough, big enough and quick enough, but he is not mentally tough enough, and that is a big reason why Villanova is a No. 9 seed in the NCAA tournament and a 11/2–point underdog to its first-round opponent, George Mason.

Fisher could go for 40 against George Mason, or he could disappear, as he did at the end of the South Florida game in the Big East tournament. He could not fight through the pain from the tendinitis, so he sat on the bench for the final defensive and offensive plays in the game. South Florida scored, Villanova did not, and the Wildcats' losing streak stretched to five.

How Fisher goes on Friday is most likely how Villanova will go. If he is hot, confident, and most important healthy - and he maintained on Monday that he is - the Wildcats will have a good shot at winning. If Fisher is not, then Villanova will have no shot.

This is just how it is when performance does not meet expectation, when results do not match up with talent. With all the talent that he has, Fisher should be better. He is good, no doubt, but he could be great if only he had a little of that dog in him that Brian Dawkins always used to talk about.

To be great, you have to be a little nasty, a little fearless. You have to be able to tune out the noise, ignore the critics, feed off a hostile crowd. Fisher is an incredibly nice, polite guy, a good teammate and someone who very much believes in Villanova and what it means to be a Villanova guard.

But nasty he is not.

Again, Fisher is good. He leads the team, averaging 15.4 points and 4.8 assists this season. He is a second-round All-Big East selection and is on the Big East honor roll. Fisher is the second player in Villanova history, behind Reynolds, to score 1,500 points and dish out 450 assists, and with 1,652 career points he sits 13th on the school's all-time scoring list. Only two players, Dante Cunningham and Reynolds, have played in more games in a Wildcats uniform than Fisher.

Fisher just could be so much more. He could be Reynolds, or Lowry, or Foye, who had his jersey retired earlier this season. Fisher has all of their best attributes.

Fisher is as good a ball handler and passer as Lowry was, and sees the court as well. He is as dangerous coming off screens as Reynolds was, and has the same type of scorer's mentality as Reynolds did. He gets to the rim, and consequently the foul line, as effectively as Foye did, and is as physically strong and versatile playing both point guard and shooting guard as Foye was.

Reynolds, Foye and Lowry simply did not care what anyone thought about them or said about them. They were rocks on the mental side. Fisher is not. He deferred to Reynolds last year and did not step into Reynolds' leadership role this year.

"Offensively he's one of the best we've ever had," Wright said. "I think he worries about [comparisons] sometimes a little too much. He and Scottie were close, and I know he wants to do what Scottie did. I always try to tell him, you don't have to do that. Just be the best you can be.

"Knowing him, how far he's come, he's probably come the farthest of all of them off the court. He's become a mature guy. On the court, I think he's really frustrated that the knee problems have bothered him. I think in his mind he's had to prove that 'It doesn't bother me.' . . . I think he's been frustrated because he puts a lot of pride in being a Villanova guard."

That he does. Fisher wants to go out on a high note, not on a six-game losing streak. He wants his legacy to be like that of Reynolds, Lowry and Foye.

"I know I did my part," Fisher said. "I know I'm a good player. I'm not a good player on my own, I'm a good player because of my teammates and the people around me and the environment I'm in. I just wanted to learn and get better."

Fisher has been to the Final Four, and the Sweet Sixteen, and he also has been upset in the second round. But a first-round loss, he does not want that on his Villanova resume.

To avoid it, Fisher will have to play better than he has. In the last five games, all losses, Fisher's numbers dipped to 10.8 points and 3.8 assists in 33.6 minutes per game. Those will have to improve.

And if he can develop a little dog in him between now and Friday, that would help, too.

Contact columnist Ashley Fox at 215-854-5064 or

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