Patrick Fisher and Colton Sandage were a productive pair at Bloomington (Ill.) High School, helping lead the Purple Raiders to third place in the Class 3A state tournament two seasons ago.
Sandage came to Vincennes University last year, and was one of the few true freshman rotation pieces for the Trailblazers on their 2019 national championship team. Fisher decided a week ago he’d join his former high school teammate at VU, transferring from Gavilan (Calif.) junior college.
The 6-foot sophomore guard averaged 7.7 points and 5.4 assists last season for the Rams, who were 27-3 and advanced to the regional finals of the California Community College Athletic Association. The California winner doesn’t advance to the NJCAA Finals in Hutchison, Kan.
Trailblazers coach Todd Franklin said that Fisher wanted to play closer to his Illinois home. The coach said he didn’t recruit Fisher when he played at Bloomington with Sandage, but was impressed with his play as a freshman at Gavilan.
“Patrick played on one of the best juco teams in California, he played well as a freshman and
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he was their only freshman who played,” Franklin said. “He’s a pass-first point guard who knows how to run a team. He logged a lot of minutes out there, about 28 per game, and his assist-to-turnover rate was 3-to-1.
“He’s also known for his on-the-ball defense. He gets steals, although I’m not worried about steals. Patrick has quick reactions and is tough enough to fight through ball screens. He anticipates well.”
Fisher is VU’s second signing of the offseason, joining 6-6 Michigan forward John Ukomadu.
A bulk of the point guard time a year ago went to 6-1 Keith Clemons, a converted off-guard. Mixing in at the point were 6-1 freshman Craig Porter, who started last year as the off-guard, and 6-0 freshman Chuka Mekkam.
“We need a point guard who can push the ball, protect it, put it where it needs to be and then stop the ball from getting in the lane,” Franklin said. “We think Chuka can step up and do those things, and with Patrick we feel we have at least two guys who are older, experienced, who can lock into doing that for 40 minutes.
“I compare Patrick a lot to Paris Burns (2013-14), who we brought in his sophomore year. We had Devon Foster and Charles Foster out there at guard too,” Franklin said. “Paris was more of a scorer, where Patrick is more of a set-up guy, but they’re both quick and have that toughness, veteran-guy component to them.
“The year of junior college experience is important. We planned on signing two point guards, and bringing in Patrick allows us to feel we’re in solid shape there.”
While Fisher isn’t looked at to score, he was a solid shooter for Gavilan. He hit 55 percent of his shots and 35 percent from 3-point range to go with 80 percent shooting from the free-throw line.
“He didn’t shoot a lot, but was efficient. We hope we get him better as a shooter here over the summer,” Franklin said. “We’re hoping to get Patrick in here for the summer, get him acclimated, do what he needs to do academically and be around the guys.”
The VU coach said the team took a break after spring semester, but started summer workouts this week. He noted that he plans to sign at least five more players for the 2019-20 team and is bringing in five players for workouts this week.
“The nine, 10 guys we have in here are pretty good already, but we do have cap space to sign,” Franklin said. “I’d feel better if we can sign one impactful inside guy, but we want guys in here who are going to fit and we’ll work toward that until Aug. 19.”