Villanova's Fisher living up to playground legend
Corey Stokes first heard about it from a kid on a Philadelphia playground, who asked whether he was the guy who scored 105 points in a summer-league game.
Villanova coach Jay Wright heard about it from reporters while coaching with USA Basketball, then immediately called his school's compliance department to make sure the game was legit.
Everyone else, it seems, heard about it from a friend of a friend - or through Twitter, chat rooms, the blogosphere. Could it be true that Corey Fisher, the senior who's spent virtually his entire career in the shadow of Scottie Reynolds, really dropped 105 points in a single game?
''I don't know. When it was all said and done, I had 105,'' Fisher said bashfully earlier this week, before his No. 7 Wildcats knocked off UCLA on Wednesday night to reach the finals of the NIT Season Tip-Off. They'll play No. 24 Tennessee for the title Friday night.
''It was at a pro-am league in the summer,'' Fisher continued. ''Top high school guys played, some guys in college, NBA dudes, and it was just a good tournament.''
So did it really happen? Did he really score 105?
''Yeah,'' Fisher said. ''It happened.''
New York City has produced plenty of playground legends, from Earl ''The Goat'' Manigault and Nate ''Tiny'' Archibald, to Ron Artest's exploits at Dyckman Park, to the nameless, faceless players who have honed their games at Rucker Park over the years.
But it's always been difficult to separate fact from fiction.
Box scores and accurate records are rarely kept during summer-league games, and there's no video evidence of Fisher's virtuoso performance. Even he can't remember the team he was playing (it was called GymRatsNYC) or the guy who failed so miserably in guarding him.
Here's what he does remember: The Bronx-native was playing in the Dyckman league at the Watson Gleason Playground in early August when he got hot. Shot after shot went in, from every conceivable place on the pavement, and he had 71 points by the end of the third quarter.
''At that point,'' he said, ''I began thinking about 100.''
By the time Fisher scored the final basket in his team's 138-130 victory, he had smashed the league record of 63 points set by former Cincinnati star Kenny Satterfield. He had bettered what is thought to be the New York City summer-league record of 100, set by Fly Williams in 1978.
''The first thing I thought was, 'Oh my God, I'd better call our compliance staff and make sure everything was on the level,''' Wright said upon hearing of Fisher's performance. ''Then it was like, 'If you scored 105 in a summer-league game, the guy he was guarding probably scored 103.'''
Fisher insisted that he was playing defense, too, not just camping out at one end of the court and waiting for the ball. And he quickly points out that the league is one of the most competitive in the country, featuring NBA players like Jason Williams of the Orlando Magic and college stars like Kemba Walker of Big East rival Connecticut.
''It's funny because I was playing on a playground and a little kid walked up to me and thought I was the one who scored, and I didn't know what he was talking about,'' said Stokes, also a senior for Villanova. ''I talked to Fish the next day and he was like nothing ever happened.''
The performance landed Fisher a comic-book like spread in Sports Illustrated, and he's become something of a cult icon on the same New York City playgrounds where he grew up. He still smiles when chatting about his memorable game, but he also said it's become a burden.
''It was a good feeling, a lot of people still talk about it,'' Fisher said, ''but if I have a bad game, people are REALLY telling me about it.''
The 6-foot-1 senior hasn't had one of those in a while.
After averaging a modest 9.1 points as a freshman and 10.8 as a sophomore, he began to assume a leadership role last season and helped the Wildcats to a 25-8 record and the NCAA tournament. Now, he's the leader of a team that many expect to compete for the national championship.
He matched his career high with 24 points against Bucknell earlier this season, and bettered that with 26 against UCLA. Fisher's tough three-point play with about 3 minutes remaining gave the Wildcats an insurmountable lead.
''I remember seeing Corey Fisher play here in a high school game against Rice High School, and it was unbelievable,'' Wright said after the game, in a small cinderblock room deep inside Madison Square Garden. ''I was really happy for Fish tonight.''