It's not easy to keep track of all the highs and lows that junior forward Marcus Fizer has experienced since arriving at Iowa State, but one need look no further than the Cyclones' last two meetings with Iowa to see the distance between Fizer's North and South poles. During last season's game Fizer was whistled for a technical foul early in the second half after he shoved Hawkeyes forward Jacob Jaacks. Iowa State coach Larry Eustachy benched Fizer for the final 15:15, and Fizer finished with two points, his career low, in a 74-54 loss. Contrast that with last month's game against Iowa, in which Fizer had 16 points and seven rebounds in a 79-66 win and took it upon himself to upbraid a teammate for wearing a hat to the pregame meal in violation of team rules. "Last year," says Eustachy, "Marcus would have been the one wearing the hat."
If the shortest distance between those two points is a straight line, then Fizer took the scenic route. Though he was the Big 12's freshman of the year in 1997-98 and led the league in scoring last season with 18.0 points per game, the 6'8", 265-pound Fizer too often accrued his numbers at the Cyclones' expense. As a sophomore he shot 36.8% or worse from the field in 11 games, and Iowa State went 1-10 in those games as it finished ninth in the conference with a 6-10 record. This season, through Sunday, Fizer's field goal percentage was up to 66.0 (seventh in the nation), and so was his scoring average, to 21.0 points. As a result the Cyclones were also movin' on up. They were 15-2 and appear poised to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in three years.
"My freshman and sophomore years I was just going through the motions," says Fizer, who also leads Iowa State in rebounding, with 7-4 per game. "Now I know what it is to be a true leader, to have the whole team riding on your shoulders."
A former McDonald's All-America from Arcadia, La., Fizer faced a difficult transition at the end of his freshman year when Tim Floyd, the coach who had recruited him to Iowa State, left to take over the Chicago Bulls and was replaced by Eustachy, who had been at Utah State. "When I introduced myself to Marcus," says Eustachy, "he was very distant, like I was going to have to do things his way." Eustachy threw Fizer out of the weight room during the preseason last year for slacking off, and at a practice early this season he made the entire team do extra running because he didn't like Fizer's body language. The two appear to be more simpatico of late, however. Moments after the win over Iowa, Fizer jumped on the scorer's table and held up a sign that read LARRY EUSTACHY NO. 1.
Fizer's attitude adjustment can only boost him further in the eyes of pro scouts. His increased maturity couldn't have come at a better time. Fizer has a two-year-old son, Aamondae, who lives with Fizer's relatives in Louisiana, and a one-year-old daughter, Arae, who lives with her mother in Virginia. In September Fizer got engaged to girlfriend Anysha Ticer, with whom he lives in Ames. "I worry all the time," Fizer says. "My family is the most important thing to me." That's yet another sign that he's growing in the right direction.