At age 27, newbie head coach Jeremy Fisher was, well, a fish out of water essentially.
The 1996 graduate of Union High, in a little farm town in west-central Illinois, was suddenly a varsity head coach.
The kid from Biggsville had earned a big-time gig.
Some boys on those Round Lake basketball teams a few years ago might have had siblings who were older than Fisher.
“I recognized I was a 27-year-old head coach, and that’s not something you see every day,” Fisher said. “It was a good opportunity for me. It was a little overwhelming at times. I had been coaching for only four years. It happened to be those were the circumstances here at Round Lake. It was a lot of learning on the job that first year.”
Two seasons later and no longer a varsity head coach, Fisher was commuting after a full day of teaching at Round Lake to newly opened Woodstock North. A couple of seasons later, he returned to Round Lake to assist new head coach Jim Roberts.
Now, “Fish” is the big fish again. After coaching the Panthers during the summer, Round Lake’s school board on Monday night approved his hiring as Roberts’ replacement.
Older and wiser, Fisher feels more prepared than he was in 2006 when Round Lake tabbed him to replace Mark Petrynek.
Truth be told, Fisher experienced his share of success in his two seasons leading the Panthers. They won 10 games in that 2006-07 campaign. The program hasn’t posted double-digit wins since then.
The former high school basketball player is ready to give it another shot.
“I’m excited. I’m happy,” said Fisher, 35, who’s beginning his 12th year as a physical education teacher at Round Lake. “The good thing is that I’ve coached these seniors when they were sophomores. So I know these kids, I know the program pretty well, and I think it’s a good situation to come into. Roberts ran a good program, so there’s not a lot of things to fix.
“Looking back at my first stint as a head coach, I was just kind of thrown into it,” he added. “I didn’t really know what to expect. Especially working at Woodstock North for those two years under Joe Conroy (who’s now the associate head coach for Northern Illinois’ women’s team), who’s a great coach, I learned a lot of things from him, and then I had the chance to ease my way back into it here at Round Lake. The more experience you get, the more little pieces you pick up here and there. I definitely feel well more prepared this time around than I was the first time around.”
When Woodstock North opened its doors in 2008, Fisher hopped aboard. He served as an assistant coach for one season and then was Conroy’s head sophomore coach. Fisher took a year off from basketball before spending the last two seasons under Roberts, who left following last season to replace Jim Hinkle at Jacobs.
“I really liked what Jim was doing,” Round Lake athletic director Mike Mizwicki said of Roberts. “Jim really connected with our kids. We’re heading in the right direction, regardless of wins and losses. You see it in how hard (the players) practice, what they’re doing, how often they’re working out, whether it’s off-season or summer. All the things you should be doing, we were doing them. Jeremy was on those teams, so continuing what was happening the last three years is what we’re looking to do.”
Round Lake lost talented incoming sophomore James Mobley, who transferred to Libertyville, but the Panthers return a group that includes high-scoring senior Karnell Wright, fellow seniors Mateusz Lopez, Rayshawn Bommon and Alex Green, and sophomore Michael Green.
“I like the group that I have,” Fisher said. “I got a nice set of seniors who understand what I expect.”
Expect good things from the Panthers.
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