Marlo Davis watched history unfold a few weeks ago like “it wasn’t real.”
A night that began organically enough, the coach said, quickly turned into something magical as basket after basket fell for Elijah Fisher, an 18-year-old five-star recruit from Oshawa, Ont.
“As it’s happening, you’re watching and saying ‘Just keep going, see how far you can take it,'” said Davis, Crestwood Prep’s boys basketball coach. “He was playing really well. He just got in a groove, and it was just happening through the flow of the game.
“And then near the end, when (his teammates) realized tonight’s gonna be a special night for him, they definitely wanted to put the icing on the cake to try to help him cement himself as one of the best high school players in the country, if not ever.”
The six-foot-seven guard was originally credited with 74 points in Creswood’s 119-102 win over Burlington’s New Horizon Academy — which is no slouch of a team — although according to Basketball Buzz, scorekeepers forgot a free throw. His 75 points were an Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association (OSBA) record, and the most eye-popping performance by a Canadian high schooler since Denham Brown scored 111 for Toronto’s West Hill Collegiate in 2002.
“He’s a top-tier scorer, but the thing that separates him from most is just his competitive drive and his willingness to sacrifice and do whatever it takes to win, that really separates him from a lot of high school kids his age,” Davis said.
On Sunday, Fisher earned MVP honours at the BioSteel All-Canadian game in Toronto, capping a 28-point performance with a stunning windmill dunk in front of fans and scouts, including Raptors president Masai Ujiri and assistant GM Dan Tolzman.
The BioSteel game, which features the top high schoolers in the country, was back after COVID-19 scrapped both the 2020 and ’21 editions.
The global pandemic has been tough on Canadian high school athletes, who faced much tighter restrictions than their counterparts in the U.S. At first, Fisher, who could dunk with ease by the age of 14 and was touted as the top-ranked player in the class of 2023, feared falling off the radar altogether.
“It was very stressful knowing that everything was locked down, all of a sudden out of nowhere, and knowing I’m not able to get in the gym,” Fisher said. “It was stressful knowing that kids down (south) were able to play and have coaches watch them and have fun, while I’m just stuck at home, looking for an outdoor court to work out on.”
His dad Rohan said, however, “true hoopers who were dedicated to their craft found a way to work out.”
Fisher said he came to see the pandemic’s silver lining, it gave him more time to work on any flaws in his game. And while already passionate about the game, he came to appreciate it “way more.”
“Because I know what it feels like for the sport that you love is taken away from you just at the snap of a finger,” Fisher said.
Fisher first played for Crestwood Prep when he was 12, suiting up alongside teammates a half-decade older. He’s trained off the court with Ish Joseph since Grade 9. With a focus on functional training, Joseph coaches Fisher on everything from agility and speed, to visualization and the ability to anticipate plays.
Joseph, who coaches young athletes in numerous sports through Pure Skills Athletics, compared Fisher to Canadian hockey star Connor McDavid, for his ability to go to another gear when others are succumbing to fatigue. He’ll put Fisher through a workout that includes moving from balance to jumping to basketball work.
“He gets to that stage where you think he’s tired, and then he’ll go to another level,” Joseph said. “(Swimmer) Michael Phelps would be that type of athlete, when you think they’re done, they can go to another gear.
“A lot of athletes will go from exercise back to sports and their level drops. His goes up. He goes into that flow state a lot. (Top athletes) will always do more than what is required because they want it so bad. One of the words I use is he goes ‘Zen.’ His passion takes over. He has this burning desire, it’s crazy how much he loves the game.”
Rohan Fisher and his wife Thelia once worried the pressure of being a top basketball prospect would weigh heavily on Elijah, who has 84,000 followers on Instagram. But they maintain a happy balance at home, Rohan said.
“Elijah lives, sleeps, dreams basketball, everything is basketball for him,” Rohan said. “He has a goal, he’s made up his mind what he’s going to do, we’re here to support him and make sure he achieves his dreams, but also educate him along the way too.”
Elijah is the second oldest of five boys. He postponed a recent phone interview because he was walking his six-year-old brother to school. His other brothers are 12, 15, and 21.
“I take big pride in showing my brothers that they can do whatever they want,” Fisher said.
Crestwood teammate Romad Dean of the Bahamas also lived with the Fisher family — “I call him my sixth Fisher boy,” Rohan said — and recently committed to Fordham University.
Fisher’s education is the big decision he and his family face. While he could spend another year in high school, he’s expected to reclassify to 2022. He’s received NCAA scholarship offers from 72 schools, “at last count,” Rohan said. He’s only made one official university visit, to Texas Tech. He recently told Sports Illustrated he’s received significant interest from Oklahoma State, Maryland, Arizona State and Alabama.
Watching March Madness has him “very excited,” envisioning might be next year.
“Since I was a little kid watching it, I’ve dreamed of playing for one of those college teams, being on that big stage, hitting a game-winning jump shot … having fun and just smiling,” Fisher said.
He could also go straight to the NBA G League development team, G League Ignite.
“It’s good that he has a lot of options, but it’s tough because you don’t know which option is the best option, which one suits your situation,” Rohan Fisher said. “Mom and I want Elijah to be comfortable with the decision, but we also want to help guide his decision.”
Fisher also made his national team debut last summer, helping Canada win bronze at the FIBA Under-19 World Cup.