15 years after leading Iowa State to an Elite Eight appearance, Marcus Fizer showed fans that he still has it. Following his induction into the Iowa State Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday night, Fizer was asked to take part in a skills competition as part of Hilton Madness and drained a three (in only one attempt) from the wing as nostalgic Cyclone fans looked on.
In the twilight of his career (Fizer maintains that he is not retired), Fizer's trip to Ames served not only as a way to honor his accomplishments, but also as an opportunity to talk to Steve Prohm's pre-season top 10 team about this upcoming season.
"I want these guys to be focused on the task at hand," said Fizer. "I want them to have that success and I want them to advance to the championship. Last year was the heartbreak to UAB and that still stings with the guys. Georges (Niang) and Monte (Morris) will take control, but they can't expect to come out and start 20-0. I just want them to focus on playing basketball and be the best student-athletes they can be."
Knowing a thing or two about both success and setbacks, Fizer remarked that he was looking forward to talking with the team at length about their upcoming journey.
"The moment will be over so fast. Here we are 15 years later. Time goes by so fast and I just want them to enjoy this moment."
Fizer also shares a unique bond with this year's team as he endured a coaching change while at Iowa State. Recruited to Ames by Tim Floyd, Fizer admitted to initially struggling to adapt to Larry Eustachy.
"I let them know that I know what they're going through with the coaching change. I just wanted to reiterate the fact that when I went through the coaching change, it was a little rocky due to my immaturity. It wasn't anything with coach Eustachy or the coaching staff because they were phenomenal. It was just me being immature and being disgruntled that the coach that brought me in wasn't here anymore. Once I bought into the program, I became more and more receptive and we had great success. I really wanted them to understand that."
"This group of guys has excellent talent and they're smart guys and they have the leadership of Georges and Monte."
Wisdom and experience are two of the invaluable traits that Fizer can offer to not only this year's Iowa State team, but to young and developing athletes everywhere. After being selected 4th overall in the 2000 NBA draft, Fizer battled through an abbreviated career at the pinnacle of the sport that was unfortunately cut short due to a torn ACL. What followed was a global basketball odyssey that brought Fizer to places like Spain, Israel, Puerto Rico and Argentina, among others.
"The last time I had fun playing basketball was at Iowa State University."
At first, I was taken aback by the magnitude of that comment, but once I let it sink in, it all makes sense considering the source. Sitting across from me is a man who's showcased his talents at outposts all over the world and is more than versed in the rigors and grind expected of a professional athlete.
"It's a lot harder to play overseas. People look at me crazy when I say that. I'm not saying the talent level is better, but with the preparation, the travel. They gonna get it out of you."
Asked to elaborate, Fizer shared tales of two-a-day practices and weeks where they'd get in as many as ten practices in addition to games.
Given Fizer's overseas experience, he's had a chance to work with former Cyclones like Craig Brackins and Will Clyburn as they continue their careers outside of the United States. The trio spent a summer training together in Las Vegas a couple years back.
One former player in particular that Fizer has crossed paths with is Fred Hoiberg. The two played two seasons together with the Bulls and when asked about the challenges Hoiberg will face as the head coach of the Bulls, Fizer offered caution and talked about the differences at the professional level.
"I don't envision it being a seamless transition. Everything in the professional ranks is extremely stressful. It's scary. He's got so much to deal with. He's got his first Derrick Rose injury. It's just another basketball injury, but that's just the things Fred has to deal with."
Of course, the Bulls are built to contend in the Eastern Conference, but there is one major hurdle standing in their way.
"You don't want to say that they're playing to beat Lebron, but it's also just like when MJ was with the Bulls. Everyone was trying to beat them."
And speaking of coaching, Fizer now knows that the next chapter of his basketball life will be centered around coaching. Currently serving as an assistant coach at Desert Oasis high school in Las Vegas, Fizer gets the opportunity to work with his 17-year-old son, Aamondae Coleman, a 6'5" forward that will graduate in 2016.
"I'm just helping him to develop him more and teaching him toughness. He's being recruited by several schools out west."
Getting to work with his son has only strengthened Fizer's conviction for getting into coaching.
"I definitely know this is my next step and next calling. The last 5-6 years of my career I've been a de facto player-coach and the passion for it is just so strong. I've already reached out to a couple people to really see what the next steps are"
"I teach according to skill level. I teach according to what you can evolve into. I teach to strength and weaknesses and really teach more to weaknesses."
Coaching may be the next step, but this last weekend was an opportunity to honor what Fizer the basketball player accomplished while wearing the Cardinal and Gold. As Fizer tells it, the Hall of Fame ceremony on Friday night was a proud moment for him.
"It was bigger than I thought. It was unbelievable. Just a proud moment to have my family there; my wife and kids and parents".
At that moment, the conversation shifted to family and especially his kids in a particularly candid moment where Fizer was brimming with pride.
Fizer noted that one of the coolest parts of this weekend was when his oldest son was able to get a picture with Niang on Friday night, while his 11-year-old son, who Fizer called a "total phenom" was able to get a picture with Morris. But the true passion in Fizer's life is his five-month old daughter, London, who was diagnosed with Down's Syndrome.
"She's my glory and I call her 'my glory story' which is the name of her foundation."
The foundation is in the beginning stages, but Fizer shared that they've already set up a Twitter account that you can follow @MyGloryStory. You can also find links to more information about his daughter and updates on the foundation through Fizer's Facebook page and through Fizer's Instagram.
The social media aspect is a huge component for Fizer's family to be able to share their story and communicate with other families to share their struggles and triumphs.
Having his entire family in Ames for the ceremony truly was a special moment, but I was curious about whether or not an even bigger moment could await. A popular topic on the message boards, Iowa State fans have argued for years that Fizer's #5 jersey deserves to be hung in the rafters of Hilton Coliseum.
"I feel the same way about it as the hall of fame. They make that decision when they make that decision. There's never been any pressure from me to have my number retired. Those honors come when those honors come. I don't think Stacy Frese (who was also inducted into the hall of fame this weekend) has had her number retired either. Being a part of Cyclone nation is bigger than us. Will that time come? We hope so."
Before our time was up, I had to know one last thing; Fizer played for arguably the greatest team in Iowa State history, but this year's team comes into the season ranked in the top ten with their sights set on making it to the Final Four. So in a seven game series between the '99-'00 team and the '15-'16 team, who wins?
"Us without a doubt," Fizer stated without hesitation.
Would it be a sweep?
"No, these guys are talented."
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