Basketball’s rockin’ rookie makes his mark

By Stewart Pallard

Every CIS men’s basketball team wants to recruit a stud rookie. He’s the guy who can play big minutes, the guy who can hit three-point shot after three-point shot and the guy who can give the opposing coach nightmares with matchup problems. When the University of Calgary Dinos recruited 6’9″ guard Tyler Fidler, that’s exactly what they received. The guard has had a very strong rookie season and became the first player off the bench for the Dinos while averaging slightly less than ten points and over twenty minutes in playing time per game.

The son of a postal worker and an electrician and the youngest of three siblings, Fidler first started playing basketball when he was five years old in a local community league. He admits that he wasn’t that good when he was younger but he stayed with it. He kept practising, going to basketball camps and gradually kept improving over the years. The rookie was also blessed with a tall frame, which is a big asset on the basketball court but is somewhat unusual since his parents are of average height.

In high school, Fidler was a dominant player. He averaged a triple-double in his senior year and he scored 52 points for Western Canada High School in a losing effort during the quarterfinal for the provincial championship.

‘He’s special,” said Dino assistant coach Matt Skin. “He was the best player in the province by far and what he can at 6’9″ not a lot of players who are 6’4″ or under can do. He really just has the complete game.”

In Grade 10, he was noticed by the Canadian National Under-17 Program and was invited to Toronto for the tryouts. Fidler was fortunate enough to make the team and they travelled to San Diego to take on some other top teams in a tournament.

“We played against some ridiculous players like Greg Oden, some [of which are] NBA players now,” said Fidler. “That’s one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had.”

The Dinos first noticed him when he was in ninth grade and felt he was good enough to make their team when he was in Grade 10 but had to wait until he finished high school.

“We offered him a scholarship in Grade 10,” said Dino assistant coach Matt Skin. “We said, ‘This is how much we care about you. We think that your going to be a great player for us in the future,’ and after that, not only me, Dan [Vanhooren], Henry [Bekkering], Ross [Bekkering and] all these guys sat in a gym and watched him play for two years to establish that relationship with him so he felt that this was his best choice.”

They were not the only team that noticed Fidler’s basketball talents. Several NCAA division one schools took notice as well as nearly every CIS team on the west coast, UBC in particular. Even with all of the Dinos’ carefully planned recruiting tactics, such as enrolling Fidler in the Junior Dino program and treating him to a steak dinner–all of which definitely played a role in his decision–his main reason for staying home was quite simple: a matter of geography. If he decided to attend any of these other universities, his family would have to catch a flight to see him play whereas they could see him play every other weekend if he stayed home. He also knew that the Dinos had a very good chance at being one of the top teams in the country with the return of Henry Bekkering from the NCAA.

Being on a top team has meant that that the first-year guard has gone from being the best player on his high school team to a bench player on the basketsaurs, but that has not discouraged him. Fidler has settled into the Dinos line-up quite well and has had no problems making the adjustment to CIS level basketball.

“I just have to find my way and see where I fit in,” said Fidler. “I’ve found it and it is coming off the bench bringing energy. I’m fine with it because I have a fifth-year [Cody Darrah] in front of me and I look up to him and he’s taught me a lot.”

He has also impressed the Dino coaching staff. They now plan some of their offence with his talents in mind and his defensive play has gradually improved over the course of the season. He is starting to become more of a triple-threat and has even attained Canada West rookie of the year.

“He’s well deserving,” said Vanhooren. “I think he is the best freshman in Canada West. His versatility and what he brings to our team and all the things he can do as a 6’9″ guard are helping us become as good as we are or helping us to get to where we want to go and without him, we wouldn’t be where we are.”

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