MATTHEWS Matthew Fisher-Davis’ life changed during a few weeks last spring and last summer.
A 6-foot-5 senior at Butler High, Fisher-Davis is a top 100 national recruit who has signed with Vanderbilt. He chose the Commodores over Georgia, Wake Forest and Virginia, making sure to narrow his choices to strong academic schools because he was just as interested in getting a four-year degree and pursuing his dream of being a psychologist as he was in nailing his next 3-pointer.
But until Fisher-Davis had some big games in front of some big-time coaches in April and July, his choice of colleges – at least if he wanted a basketball scholarship – were a lot different.
“I’ve been battling all my life,” said Fisher-Davis, who carries a 3.4 GPA and averages 24 points and 14.6 rebounds. “People have had a lot of negative things to say about me on the basketball court. Coming out after my junior season, I was projected as a low Division I (recruit) or a D-2, things like that. So I go out every night with a chip on my shoulder. I always thought I was better than that.”
Last season, Fisher-Davis played AAU ball for coach Kerry Sargent of the Charlotte Nets. Sargent had watched Fisher-Davis star in his freshman year at Butler and then in two more seasons at private Charlotte Christian. Sargent felt like all Fisher-Davis, whom he calls a “phenomenal shooter,” really needed was a chance.
“I think one thing that made people question him was because things came so easy, that it looked like he wasn’t playing hard,” Sargent said. “But he played hard every game. He’s special, no doubt about it. I coached (former Charlotte 49ers and Independence star) Jobey Thomas and (former Charlotte Latin and Georgia Tech star) Anthony Morrow. They were good shooters, but I would have to give Matthew the nod.”
Last April, Sargent’s team was playing at a major event at Clemson attended by many college coaches. Fisher-Davis led the Charlotte Nets to a championship in the silver division and Sargent said his performance began to pique the interest of some Division I coaches. In July, the Nets were playing in a season-ending tournament in South Carolina, which was going on at the same time as the Peach Jam. The Peach Jam is where many of the nation’s top rising seniors annually gather. Just down the road, Fisher-Davis tossed in eight 3-point shots in a game. Some of the coaches left the Peach Jam to come see him. That doesn’t happen often.
“He really came out of nowhere,” said scout.com/Fox Sports national analyst Evan Daniels. “I went over ... and ended up watching for myself and was really impressed. He really brings something to the table that’s lacking in college basketball right now – shooting – and not only is he a good shooter, but he’s got good size at 6-5. He was one of the surprises of the summer. I was really impressed. He went from an unranked guy to a national top 100 guy. I mean, he wasn’t even a big name in his state. It’s amazing how high his stock rose.”
All of a sudden, Fisher-Davis was taking calls from major college coaches and taking visits to major college campuses. He settled on Vanderbilt.
“I’m trying to prepare for life after basketball,” he said, “and it felt like home.”
He also decided to leave Charlotte Christian and return to Butler, where he played varsity as a freshman.
“I really wanted to finish my senior year here,” Fisher-Davis said. “I grew up with most of the kids at Butler. Basketball-wise, I have a lot more freedom and most of my friends go here and it’s been a lot of fun.”
Fisher-Davis’ sister, Jaymee, is a former all-Southwestern 4A Conference star who plays at Liberty. His mother, Carolyn, set records as a player at UNC Wilmington. His father played high school basketball in eastern North Carolina against future pros like Blue Edwards and Keith Gatlin.
“Basketball is literally in his blood,” Butler coach Donald Kirby said of Matthew Fisher-Davis. “And, hey, he’s the real deal. He’s probably one of the most overlooked kids in the state of North Carolina, even after last summer. A lot of people get attention over him and his quiet demeanor fools some people, but he can flat out do it all. People know him for his jump shot, but he can wear you out in the paint, take you off the dribble and he can jump out of the gym. He’s also our best defender.”
In his last two games, Fisher-Davis has scored 72 points. He had a career-high 42 against Porter Ridge last week and followed that up with 30 Tuesday against Independence, when Butler climbed into a share of first place in the conference. Fisher-Davis made seven 3-point shots against Porter Ridge. He made 15-of-18 field goals total, including 7-of-9 from 3-point range. He made 5-of-6 free throws. Against Independence, he made seven more 3-pointers, some from NBA range. He made a turnaround corner 3-pointer with eight seconds left to give his team a one-point win.
Kirby wasn’t surprised by either performance. He’s gotten used to it. Kirby said every game his star guard does something that makes him shake his head.
“He does everything we ask him to do,” Kirby said. “And man, he got hot against Indy and they left him open. They tried to double-team him, but he’s on like that, there’s not much you can do, because he’s so tall and long. I mean, man, he’s just special.”
Wertz: 704-612-9716; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr
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