Omaha entered this season expecting big things from sophomore forward Frankie Fidler, who was named to the preseason Summit League first team. Fidler struggled out of the gate but has since found his footing, scoring double figures in nine consecutive games.
Last season, Fidler came on strong in the month of February, as he averaged 18.6 points per game and had a season-high 37 points against North Dakota. No moment was larger than the one he had against Denver, where he scored Omaha’s last 14 points and hit the buzzer-beating three point shot to win the game. One can understand where these expectations came from, but he only averaged 11 points in non-conference games this season.
“It’s hard, it’s very hard,” said Omaha head coach Chris Crutchfield on Fidler being the focal point of the offense. “There’s 10 eyes on you every time the ball is in your hands. There are certain things you have to do, you have to move the ball, move yourself, and you have to try to get easy baskets when the defense is not set. That’s what we have talked to Frankie about.”
For Fidler, his sophomore season has been about adjusting and becoming a better player all around. One adjustment that Crutchfield has seen Fidler make between his freshman season and now is becoming a better on-ball defender. Against North Dakota this season, Omaha put Fidler on Matt Norman, who was a perfect 4-4 from three, and Fidler did not allow him to make another shot the rest of the game.
“Coming into this year, I wanted to be more of an all-around player,” Fidler said. “I think seeing the floor this year has been better for me. Rebounding my numbers are up, and taking on challenges on defense, competing on the ball when who I’m defending has it and not letting them score.”
This season, Fidler has found ways to make an impact on the game, even though his shooting numbers are down from last year. Last season, the Bellevue native only shot 85 free throws on the year, and this season, that number is already up to 101 and is shooting 90.1% from the charity stripe. Fidler has also picked up the load as the main ball handler this year while other players are off the court due to injury or foul trouble. The sophomore forward is also averaging 3.1 assists per game.
Omaha will need Fidler to continue his streak as they look ahead to the conference tournament at the end of the season. The Mavericks have made it clear they will continue to ride Fidler as far as he will take them, with the sophomore forward playing 34 minutes a night. All in all, Fidler is the engine that makes the Mavericks run.