Recruiting just another sale to Fisher Business acumen helps C.M. Wright star

November 24, 1995|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

During the 1995-96 academic year, The Sun is tracking the progress of six athletes who are seniors at area high schools. In addition to their accomplishments on the field, we will write about their work in the classroom as they strive to meet the NCAA's tougher academic standards.

Duane Fisher, a wide receiver and defensive back at C. Milton Wright, has negotiated the recruiting process as efficiently as the businessman he hopes to become.

"I was never hassled by recruiters like a lot of people say they've been or said that I would be," said Fisher, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound senior who last month orally committed to the University of Virginia and plans to sign in February during the NCAA's early period for football players.

How did Fisher close the deal so smoothly, when many recruits have horror stories about the process?

Perhaps it's the experience he has gained attending several conferences a year as state vice president of the Future Business Leaders of America, where Fisher said he has learned "business etiquette, leadership, and how to present and sell yourself."

Not that he had to do much of a selling job. Fisher has a 2.7 grade-point average in his core courses at C.M. Wright and a 980 Scholastic Assessment Test score, both above the minimums he needs to satisfy the NCAA's new standards for freshman eligibility.

And it doesn't hurt to have Fisher's athleticism: He's a power forward on the Mustangs basketball team and a county champ '' and state runner-up in the 300-meter hurdles in track. He demonstrated his football versatility last year, passing for 474 yards and four touchdowns as the Mustangs reached the state semifinals.

This year, he has helped C.M. Wright reach the semifinals again, with 23 receptions for 440 yards and nine touchdowns. The No. 5 Mustangs (10-1) play No. 1 Dunbar (10-1) in tomorrow's 3A state semifinal at Morgan State.

"Duane's the full package," said C.M. Wright coach StevHarward. "In the classroom, he's got a pretty good track record, and he's very active in school leadership-wise. But his biggest attribute is his intelligence. He's got a great deal of composure and maturity that comes through. I think people see he's got all the qualities you want for an athlete. He should do well in the big-time atmosphere.

"He's our first Division I-A recruit, and when you get a college scholarship to that kind of program, that puts you in a very elite group."

Fisher, the area's first football player to commit to a Division I-A program this season, said he averaged "about three phone calls per week, no later than 10 or 10:30, and they were always polite."

"Sometimes, the calls were awkward because you tended to run out of things to talk about," said Sandra Fisher, Duane's mother. "But they never used high-pressure tactics, and it was very pleasurable. They seemed very interested in what Duane wanted out of their programs."

Fisher appears to have had an easier time than most in turning down the coaches whose programs he didn't choose, even though "it was difficult because I had gotten to know several of them personally."

"One of them was really disappointed that I wasn't coming, but all of them made it a point to tell me that if things didn't go as planned, give them a call," he said.

Fisher was just a slender freshman four years ago -- 6 feet, 160 pounds -- but Harward said he had the potential to be C. Milton Wright's first big-time player.

"He had the size, good speed and ability," said Harward. "It was only a matter of stressing the importance of academics and dedication in his future."

And the groundwork already had been laid in those areas by Fisher's parents, Bill and Sandra.

Today, they help him weigh his options, Bill Fisher said, but are not so hands-on that they need to be involved in every aspect of his decision-making.

"Duane's a conscientious young man who pretty much knows where he wants to go and what he wants to do," Bill Fisher said. "We just kind of listen and help him weigh the pros and cons."

Since August, the Fishers have read almost every one of the 50 or so letters Duane has received from schools such as Maryland, Wake Forest, Boston College, North Carolina State, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Pittsburgh, Penn State and Notre Dame.

"Some of the schools were just corresponding, but Maryland and Virginia Tech came right out with offers," Sandra said.

Virginia came up with the full scholarship that Fisher was waiting for. The Cavaliers assistant who recruited Fisher was Joe Krivak, the former Maryland head coach.

"Duane wanted to stay someplace close, and that was a No. 1 factor. But he also liked Virginia's academic program and felt like if they came through [with an offer], that's where he'd go," Sandra Fisher said.

But as comfortable as she's been with the process, his mother said she still has concerns.

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