October 2, 2011

Fertig has All-Around Game

Kevin McCarthy

Some say that basketball is running and jumping. Sure, those are obvious elements but often left out of the equation -- and the visual memory of fans -- is that you need to know where to go and when, plus how and when to alternate from established patterns.

photo of Alex Fertig

This cerebral portion of the game gets lost in the flash and buzz of a power dunk or an ankle-breaking dribble-drive, thus ignoring the fact that the opportunity for such maneuvers are slight in number during any game while every single play requires intelligent split-second decision-making in order to be successful. So let's tell you the story of Buchanan (Fresno) High's Alex Fertig.

The demonstration of physical skills generate the oohs and aahs but it's smarts that win matchups. However, spring and summer prep basketball -- where often it's every player for himself -- is a recruiting period where college coaches are looking for standout players who produce memorable plays. The tortoise and hare fable isn't quite the right analogy to employ but coaches, due to limited viewing opportunities, are hunting for hares.

Now the 6-foot-3, 195 pound Fertig is neither tortoise nor hare. He's what those who can appreciate such call a “player,” aka someone who produces. He's a sharpshooter but when that aspect is off, he'll contribute with ballhandling, passing, defending and performing as the proverbial coach on the floor. Asked his best basketball skills, Fertig said, "knowing how to play the game. Everybody has always told me my basketball IQ is pretty high."

He's the son of Jack Fertig, a longtime college coach who currently teaches math at Buchanan. But his game is not the result of simple osmosis. "Yes, I've been at college practices and used to watch [former Fresno Staters and NBA veterans] Chris Herren, Melvin Ely, Rafer Alston and Courtney Alexander." Plus, the younger Fertig also matched up against some of his father's friends not that long ago. "I'd play with my Dad's friends who aren't as fast as they used to be but they know how to play, like using curls and backdoor cuts."

Hoops has simply been a lifelong love for Fertig. "I've always liked basketball -- it's always been my major passion. Even when I was in kindergarten, when others were playing baseball or soccer, I'd find a hoop to shoot at and someone to play with. Basketball is just something in me."

Academically, Fertig sports a 3.65 grade point average and a 1020 SAT score (English and Math). He took the test a couple of days after hernia surgery and while on pain medication and is planning on re-taking it because he believes he can produce a higher score.

On his Organized Chaos travel basketball club, Fertig was surrounded by better talent and a great big man in Central Valley Christian's Grant Verhoeven. At Buchanan High, he's the leading scorer and rebounder (this year he'll become the career leader in both categories for Buchanan). "But," as he explained, "I try and do the same things."

Fertig has a goal of winning a Valley championship. "I just like winning. One game up at De La Salle [always one of the top Bay Area squads] last season, I scored 32 points (16 in the first quarter) but we lost in overtime. People were saying I did good but in reality we still lost. I'd rather score 18 with some rebounds, assists and steals and win than score a bunch and lose."

Asked about the growth he has seen in himself since his first year of high school, Fertig said, "My freshman year, I would stand in the corner and wait for someone to kick a pass out to me. I wasn't as physically developed and couldn't finish at the rim like now. I see things on the court I couldn't see them -- I have more assets."

Assets that should bring many a smile to the college coach who lands him.