Lake County All-Area Girls Basketball Captain: Emily Fisher, Libertyville
More times than not, a great leader does more than just light up a scoresheet.
Case in point: Libertyville senior guard Emily Fisher.
While the Division I University of Maryland-bound Fisher certainly has the chops when it comes to putting up the numbers, her overall excellence reaches far beyond.
"Emily was a huge reason for our success this year, and she pushed our entire team to get better every time we played," Libertyville junior guard Kate Rule said. "Emily can do everything on the court, whether it's creating offense or playing tough defense and making it hard for opposing teams to score. She always focuses on doing the best thing for our team, which was key to our success as a team."
Fisher's effort this season resulted in myriad honors, including the elite distinction of being the Captain of the Daily Herald Lake County All-Area girls basketball team. Grayslake North all-time leading scorer Peyton Gerdes, the Northern Lake County Conference player of the year, was also considered for the honor.
But it was Fisher, the North Suburban Conference player of the year, who was the overwhelming choice for the Daily Herald award, based on an informal polling of area coaches.
"No better player in Lake County this year," one area coach noted.
Fisher, a 6-0 guard, capped off a four-year run at Libertyville by averaging 13.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 2.9 steals and 1.0 blocks per game, while shooting .468 from the floor, .321 from 3 and .740 from the foul line. Fisher played on four Libertyville teams that went 95-23, won 3 North Suburban titles and 3 regional titles. She leaves Libertyville as the program's all-time leading scorer (1,339 points) and also leaves as the team's all-time leader in steals and blocks.
"Emily's size and athleticism set her apart from other players, but she has spent a great deal of time working on her skills," Libertyville coach Greg Pedersen said. "She handles the ball as a point guard and posts up in the paint as a center. She can shoot the 3 and drive and dish or kick to open teammates. The most amazing thing about her? The 75-foot baseball passes to open teammates down the floor. She was good for one or two of those in every game. But really, she played point guard in a center's body and teams found that tough to stop."
Fisher, who played for the Wolverinas AAU team since the third grade (a couple of her original teammates included Michigan-bound Katy Eidle of Hersey and Purdue-bound Sophie Swanson of Barrington) scored 6 points in the span of 90 seconds, including a buzzer-beating game-winner against Stevenson in January and also scored 5 points in the last 2 minutes of a victory over Class 3A sectional finalist Carmel Catholic.
"It takes a special player to be able to score against top defenders and double and triple teams, and Emily made the right read, often found open teammates or just scored anyway," Pedersen said.
Fisher takes great pride in the point guard part of the total package.
"My shooting game has improved," said Fisher, who shot more than 50 percent from 2 this season. "It's something I have been working on for a while and I still need to work on. My 3-point game has improved. I have been working with one of my trainers and honing into my mid-range and 3-point game. If you watch any of my film, I want to drive to the rim and create fouls and open layups, but I have been working a lot outside of practice on this."
As a freshman, Fisher made 22 percent of her 32 three-point attempts, while this season she connected on the above-mentioned 32.1 percent of her 112 attempts from 3.
"Emily recognized the need to keep defenses extended and she went to the lab to work on her outside shot," Pedersen noted. "She had the freedom to use it throughout the season and it really helped us stretch the floor."
But Fisher said the biggest strides forward have come in the leadership department.
"I improved with my leadership role on the team being the only starting senior," she said. "We had a very young team and my experience being on the team for four years needed to show. I needed to be there for everybody. I needed to stay composed and keep the team composed in tough situations. This year, especially being a senior, being a leader was kind of very important with this team."
Pedersen certainly is a fan of Fisher's leading capabilities.
"Her leadership is off the charts," he said. "Teammates love playing with Emily. She gives it her all and she handles the ball so well that she gets our offense flowing and she always seems to make the right read, putting her teammates in a position to score.
"Emily was the leader of our team and she was the first person to encourage others to do their best. Our team shared a strong bond this season, and as often as her teammates had chances to cheer for Emily and her accomplishments, Emily also was the first to cheer and show support to her teammates giving their all on the court. She took strong pleasure from seeing her teammates succeed and that showed in both the way she distributed the ball to them in positions to succeed and in the way she verbally cheered for them when good things happen. She would help calm and encourage kids who were struggling. She would cheer loudest for those who didn't get anywhere near the playing time she received."
Rule said Fisher "was a huge reason for our success this year, and she pushed our entire team to get better every time we played," she said. "Emily can do everything on the court, whether it's creating offense or playing tough defense and making it hard for opposing teams to scores. She always focuses on doing the best thing for our team, which was key to our success as a team."
And now it's on to the Big Ten Conference and Maryland. Fisher, who has a GPA in the 3.6-3.7 neighborhood at Libertyville and would like to study psychology and maybe some business, noted Maryland was the fifth stop of six schools that she had narrowed her finalists list down to. She never made it to the sixth stop.
"When I got there, it felt like this family environment. You could tell they wanted me," she said. "I fit in their system really well. The second day I was there I got this feeling that I could see myself playing there and being coached by Brenda (Maryland head coach Frese). I decided to commit there after the second day, which I had no idea I would do considering I had one visit left. You have to do what your heart and mind tell you."
Fisher's heart and mind also told her that she is going to miss the Libertyville girls basketball vibe.
"We all had fun and we had a pretty good year," she said. "We all enjoyed it while also working very hard. With everybody working together, it improves everything overall. My teammates helped me this season. I knew this year would be hard to do stuff with the ball because of double teams and face-guarding all the time. My teammates made it a lot easier to get open and communicate. I am going to miss this environment, the people and the coaching. I've been on the team four years and you create bonds that will never go away."
Also of major note this season were the efforts of Grayslake North's Gerdes, who averaged 25 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2.5 steals per game. Headed to Division I High Point University in North Carolina, Gerdes piled up more than 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in her career at North. Gerdes scored 43 points (22 in the fourth quarter) against Marian Central this season and posted 16 points, 20 rebounds and 10 blocks in the Knights' regional semifinal win, among many season highlights.