Teddy Fifer performs double-duty for the Metro-East Lutheran Knights.
Not only does the 6-foot-2 senior guard lead the Knights (21-3) in scoring at 20 points per game and 3-pointers with 51, but he also draws the opponent’s No. 1 scorer at the defensive end.
I think there’s more in the tank that I can give. I have to take it up to another level since postseason is coming around. I think I’m having a great season so far. I’ve been playing well overall with shooting and dribbling and all the other stuff. But I think there’s more time for improvement. I can improve in all the areas.
Metro-East Lutheran senior basketball player Teddy Fifer
It’s hardly fazing Fifer, who is the News-Democrat’s Athlete of the Week after leading the Knights to the Litchfield Invitational championship with victories over the host Purple Panthers (85-56), Nokomis (52-47), Taylorville (74-60) and Civic Memorial (80-70).
“It was a real good week for me,” said Fifer, who won the Most Valuable Player award in Litchfield. “I think I played real well at the Litchfield tournament. As a team, we were just working hard together. They were doing a good job getting me open shots, and I was knocking them down whenever I had the chance.”
But don’t count on Fifer being satisfied, despite scoring 29 points against Litchfield, 17 against Nokomis, 16 against Taylorville and 19 in the title game against Civic Memorial on Saturday.
“I think there’s more in the tank that I can give,” Fifer said. “I have to take it up to another level since postseason is coming around. I think I’m having a great season so far. I’ve been playing well overall with shooting and dribbling and all the other stuff. But I think there’s more time for improvement. I can improve in all the areas. That’s where my focus is right now.”
Metro-East Lutheran coach Anthony Smith, is his second season with the Knights, has no complaints about Fifer’s play. Sure, Smith said, every player can improve, and Fifer is accomplishing that as the team continues to win and Fifer shoulders much of the responsibility for its success.
“Teddy’s doing a lot of things now that he wasn’t doing earlier in the year,” said Smith, whose team has won nine in a row. “He’s crashing the boards and he’s kind of fallen into that role of being the true leader for the team. He’s taking ownership of being the team captain. I see him talking to his teammates on the floor more often now, and he wants the ball in his hands when it’s crunch time.”
Smith, who formerly coached at Madison, said continued improvement on the defensive end likely will go a long way in determining where Fifer plays in college. And if the Knights continue to win, Fifer will have no lack of exposure.
“Right now, he’s playing about 82 to 84 percent,” Smith said. “Sometimes, his defense is up and down. If he becomes that defensive stopper that I think he can be, it will add another dimension to his game. Then, not only can he score, but he can also go out and defend the (opponent’s) best player. He can neutralize the other player and also come back and score.”
Smith pointed out that Fifer has guarded some of the top players in the metro-east, from Okawville’s Noah Frederking to Gibault’s Trevor Davis to Alton Marquette’s Shandon Boone to Greenville’s David Holden to Roxana’s Trace Gentry.
“We know he can score,” Smith said. “When college scouts come out and watch him play and see him guarding a Noah Frederking, a Davis or a Boone, that just makes it even better because then they’re like, ‘OK, not only can he put up 24 a night, but he’s also guarding the best player on the other team.’ If you have a kid who’s a very good offensive player that’s also a great defensive player, you’ve really got a good package.”
Fifer is an academic qualifier at the NCAA level and has designs on playing at the Division I level. With confidence in his ability to score, Fifer intends to maximize his defensive skills as the Knights, ranked No. 6 in the Class 1A state poll, continue to rise.
“Defense is a big part of our game this year,” Fifer said. “That’s what Coach harps on the most. So we do a lot of defensive drills in practice and run a lot. He makes sure we’re in shape. I have to be in shape to do both defense and offense 100 percent. I really enjoy defense because if you play good defense, there’s easy offensive points at the other end.”
Smith said Fifer, who is equally adept at playing point guard or shooting guard, will land in the right spot as long as the Knights continue to win, particularly in the postseason when the stakes, and pressure, are at their highest.
“He doesn’t have a lot of schools on him yet because I think everybody’s watching to see what happens and see how far he can actually take us,” Smith said. “There’s some interest from schools, but they’re like, ‘Yeah, we like like him,” but they want to see whether he can win the regional again – which would mean he would have to beat Gibault — and then get to the sectional and beat Frederking. If he beats Frederking in the sectional, he’ll get the optimum amount (of offers). By that time, we would be like 30-3.
“The more games we win, the more exposure he will get. It comes from winning.”
Right now, he’s playing about 82 to 84 percent. Sometimes, his defense is up and down. If he becomes that defensive stopper that I think he can be, it will add another dimension to his game. Then, not only can he score, but he can also go out and defend the (opponent’s) best player.
Metro-East Lutheran coach Anthony Smith on Teddy Fifer
Fifer said he received a letter from Kentucky, but added that Smith hasn’t talked to him about any other colleges that have expressed interest.
“I like the University of Maryland. I like how they play,” Fifer said. “And I like Kentucky and other schools like that. I’m thinking D-I schools. I think there’s a possibility I can (play at that level). It would be real fun playing on the big stage that they play on every day, every game.
“But the main goal now is to win state. We’ve got to go game by game and not overlook any teams, because anything can happen in the postseason.”