Former Parkersburg South coach Roy Edman recalled watching Florida Gulf Coast’s Chase Fieler come of age as a high school player. The dribbling, the passing, the vision … the feet?
“He always had these gigantic feet, and we wondered if he’d ever grow into them,” Edman said.
Cue the freshman growth spurt of 2007, when the 6-foot-2 point guard sprouted into a 6-8 forward.
“We wound up having to use him in the post a lot, but he still had the super ball-handling skills from when he was a guard,” Edman said. “Sometimes, if teams would pressure us, we’d just clear it out and let him bring it up against their big man.”
Fieler also retained his outside shooting touch, allowing Parkersburg South to float him to the perimeter. By his senior season, Fieler was scoring 25.3 points, snatching 12.7 rebounds and doling out 3.1 assists per game. He also showed the hops to average more than three blocks, earning West Virginia Class AAA all-state honors even though the Patriots’ season ended in the sectional semifinals.
“He certainly wasn’t a one-dimensional player,” said Edman, who, some three years later, remains puzzled as to why most Division I recruiters ignored Fieler.
Neither of the major programs in the area — WVU or Pitt — showed interest. Ohio University, where Fieler’s dad played football and his mom volleyball, also declined, as did Marshall. The lone scholarship offers came from James Madison and Eastern Kentucky, where head coach Jeff Neubauer was a former WVU assistant. Fieler’s next-best option? Division II West Liberty or Glenville State.
“Our staff just kept thinking these people were missing the boat,” said Edman.
Befuddled, Edman sent some of Fieler’s senior-year game film to FGCU, at that point a transitioning D-I program that was more anonymity than Dunk City. (Edman might not have known of FGCU if not for two other Parkersburg South alumni — Bryan Crislip and Ryan Hopkins — having transferred to the Fort Meyers, Fla., after beginning their college careers at Arkansas-Little Rock and Eastern Michigan.) The film made an impression, because within a few days, FGCU coach Dave Balza flew to West Virginia to watch Fieler first-hand on Senior Night.
In the kid’s final Parkersburg South home game, he put up 27 points, 14 rebounds, seven blocks and six assists in an 85-76 upset of No. 1-ranked George Washington. Balza offered a scholarship before leaving the gym.
Said Edman: “There’s probably a few people chomping at the bit now wishing they’d recruited him.”
RISE OF THE EAGLES
Balza, a big-time winner during Florida Gulf Coast’s D-II days, endured expected struggles as the Eagles moved to D-I and was fired after Fieler’s freshman season. Enter Andy Enfield, the second-year coach who suddenly has FGCU making Cinderella madness.
And Fieler, the all-state player virtually nobody wanted, has played a key role as 15th-seeded FGCU soars into the Sweet 16.
In Sunday’s 81-71 upset of San Diego State, he had 11 points and three boards in 33 minutes. That followed his 36-minute output in the monumental 71-58 upset of second-seeded Georgetown, a game in which he produced nine points, seven rebounds, three blocks and one rim-rattling alley-oop flush that symbolized FGCU’s aggressive style.
“That might have been the highest I ever jumped,” said Fieler.
Current Parkersburg South coach Mike Fallon, who took over the program the season after Feiler graduated, was among a local contingent who joined Fieler’s parents in Philadelphia for Sunday’s round-of-32 win.
“You had a little section right behind the bench rooting for San Diego State and the rest of the arena was cheering for FGCU,” Fallon said. “By the time Duke and Creighton tipped off in the late game, it was like the air was out of the building because everybody had use all their energy up on the first game.”
Fallon said the player has returned frequently the past three years, typically to a hometown hero’s welcome.
“He came in over Christmas and worked out with our high school team,” Fallon said. “We had four seniors who had played with him as freshmen, so they look up to him.
“He has been to our camps and referee’d AAU games in the summer. He’s around a lot, and the kids are all over him. He’s genuine, and you can tell he really likes working with kids.”