Elijah Fisher, the 18-year-old Canadian phenom who is widely considered the country's top basketball prospect, will attend and play for Texas Tech this coming year, he announced Thursday on Sportsnet's Tim & Friends.
A five-star recruit from Oshawa, Ont., Fisher had no shortage of options after deciding he would reclassify to the Class of 2022, having received NCAA scholarship offers from at least 72 schools. The first school he officially visited was Texas Tech, but Memphis, Louisville, Missouri and Kentucky all made the shortlist for institutions he was considering.
Other possibilities beyond the NCAA route were available, too, such as going straight to the NBA G League development team, the G League Ignite, or opt against reclassifying to spend another year in high school — though his on-court performances have plainly suggested he was ready for a bigger stage.
Perhaps the most sterling example came in February.
Displaying a sheer scoring prowess rarely seen at the high school level — or any level — Fisher scored 75 points for Crestwood Prep in their 119-102 win over Burlington’s New Horizon Academy, setting an Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association record.
"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,” Marlo Davis, the coach of Crestwood, said afterward.
Originally, Fisher had been credited with only 74 points, which would have still surpassed the previous record, a 60-point night from Miguel Tomley in 2019, by 14. However, a review of the game later found the scorekeepers had missed a free-throw.
"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," Davis said. "That really separates him from a lot of high school kids his age."
Fisher first played for Crestwood Prep when he was 12. Before he was a teenager, he was already suiting up alongside teammates, and going head-to-head with opponents, who were five years older.
At that age, it's easy to feel all eyes are on you. For Fisher, a lot of eyes really were on him, though. By the time he turned 13, many professional scouts considered him the top North American player eligible to graduate in the class of 2023.
It's a lot to handle. A vortex of expectations, internal and external, that can be inescapable without the proper support system. Fortunately, he's always had one.
“Elijah lives, sleeps, dreams basketball, everything is basketball for him,” Rohan Fisher, Elijah's father, told the Canadian Press in April. “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.”
Since emerging as the continent's most promising teenage basketball player, the six-foot-seven guard has stood out among his peers even in games that are, by design, a collection of solely standout talent.
During the BioSteel All-Canadian game in Toronto this year, an event that brings the top high schoolers in the country onto the same court at the same time, Fisher earned MVP honours with a 28-point performance.
But, with Fisher, the numbers themselves paint an incomplete picture. The technique behind the outcome matters, too.
When Fisher shoots, the ball lingers in the air a fraction longer than it seems like it should, sure of its destination in the net and in no hurry to get there. When he dunks, it's a different spectacle altogether — reflexive, sudden, powerful. He gave those in attendance at the BioSteel game, including Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri, a taste of it with a stunning windmill to cap off his night. He's done it under the national spotlight too, throwing it down without a second thought during his Team Canada debut last summer, when he helped the country win bronze at the FIBA Under-19 World Cup.
Perhaps dunking looks like a reflex because, at this point in his young life, it is. He's been able to since he was 14. More of his adolescent years have been spent knowing he could than wondering whether or not it was possible.
But, as any journey worth taking is, Fisher's path to this point has not been without its own tribulations.
At some point, being expected to do great things means coming face-to-face with the fear that, maybe, you won't. Fisher's version of this came during the COVID-19 pandemic, when restrictions aimed at slowing the virus's spread shuttered gyms, schools and training programs altogether. College recruiting is resoundingly competitive. Often, when a person can't be seen, attention shifts elsewhere.
“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 told the Canadian Press in April. “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.”
The pandemic hasn't ended but that uncertainty, at least, subsided. Fisher did what he could. He worked out where he could, he practised patience, he found an even deeper appreciation for the game of basketball itself.
"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.
The lessons from that uncertainty will stay with him. The excellence from his high school days, the faith of his coaches and family will, too.
But Fisher is somewhere new now, somewhere he's never been before, somewhere closer to where he's always wanted to end up.
“Since I was a little kid watching it, I’ve dreamed of playing for one of those college teams," Fisher said in April. "Being on that big stage, hitting a game-winning jump shot … having fun and just smiling.”
Texas Tech made the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament last season.
The Red Raiders have qualified for the past four NCAA Tournaments, including a run to the final in 2019 when Texas Tech lost to Virginia.