Monday, February 20, 2017

Frenchman Fortier Embraces The Challenge

Class of 2017 off guard Thomas Fortier now has all the integral ingredients necessary for the collegiate level. As he continues to refine elements of his game and tune up his body, the French import's sheer passion and determination for the game is evident.

 It's evident at how he carries himself. It's evident by how quickly his eyes light up, a la mini fireballs, when you mention his NCAA possibilities next year. It's evident when you see him launching a fusillade of feathery medium range jumpers all across the gym, hours after practice has already concluded.

 It's evident in his commitment to the unrequired work, his running and lifting in the after hours and use of the facility five miles up the road at University of Central Florida.

Fortier came to America to weigh his stock on the NCAA basketball market. From the looks of it, this stretch run at Conrad Academy will determine just where his multi-tooled game lands him next season. Ultimately, he will complete what he set out to do and have a scholarship waiting in the wings.

 A well-built 6-foot-3 and 190-pound guard, Fortier has decent 3-point range and a burgeoning catch-and-stick game. He snatches more rebounds than most guards his size. He plays with a ferocity and pushes himself to the maximum of his capabilities every chance he gets.

 He's the quintessential "Mr. Hustle" as times, sprawling onto the floor to secure a loose ball. He has the personal qualities and penchant for the unrequired work. These factors alone tend to rend players of this ilk appealing at the ensuing level.

Fortier's shot, release, corner 3-point shot, and nose for the rim were most notable during a 96-74 victory over Faith Baptist at home earlier this month.

During this particular performance, Fortier was firing up shots from well beyond the confines of the arc.

He was taking Division-I level shots. He was sidestepping defenders off the dribble and getting his shot off amid the draping hands of defenders. He was making heady one bounce pass to astonishingly open teammates underneath the rim.

He looked ready-made for the next level.

 Fortier was proving just how much his range has improved. A kid who has improved by the leaps and bounds measures that Fortier has is always a direct result of the rigors that come with the year round prep commitment.

Working in maniac like fashion to develop a deep shot. Finding a sniper in the offensive operating guard has enhanced his all-around game.

The Faith Baptist victory wasn't just an SIAA conference win, it gave the team a psychological lift as well. You see (at this point in the season) Conrad had morphed into the walking wounded. They were forced to come out with a short-handed, injury-depleted lineup that day.

Cognizant that he must shoulder the offensive load,  Fortier's bought into the challenge.

While Fortier had several strong drives to the rim and swift interior dishes, he was a stabilizing force on the defensive end as well. Performances of this type allow us to envision Fortier as a commendable glue guy and dependable scoring option at the ensuing NCAA level.

And those "immeasurable intangibles" those factors which you can't seem to gauge but hold much importance at the next level? Fortier has that too.

 Fortier is a full package of leader. He patterns his day around improving his strength through weight training and also finding the time to fire up an endless supply of medium range jumpers before concentrating on his beyond the arc game.

 Laser-focused and never one to back down from a challenge, a day in the confines of Conrad Academy's HS gym is what he dreamed of while in France. There, he was flanked by players on the same plane as him.

Guys who were highly-decorated basketball players in France, but saw a long and daunting journey ahead of him. Fortier, like other French student-athletes who trekked to Conrad, had the foresight to play some high-caliber college basketball before pursuing a professional career. After all, a good percentage of NCAA Division-1 players who don't play in the NBA end up plying their trade overseas.

 Fortier is humble, modest, and extremely hard-working. He takes it upon himself to get his teammates involved before anything else.

 He's an advocate of swinging the ball around and displaying patience in the half-court set, which typically works to head coach Brad Traina's advantage.

Possessing an impressive IQ for such a young kid, Fortier is adept at shooting high percentage shots and making plays under amplified pressure.

Fortier's 26-point effort during the aforementioned Faith Baptist game included various runs and momentum surges was promising. From an outsider looking in, it was the quintessential coming out party for him. The coaching staff  had seen the spurts and flashes in practice, but with a short-handed lineup, this was the true test of his character. A game of this magnitude would determine his role moving forward.

"Brad basically works with me everyday to make sure I'm giving the most efficient account of myself as possible. Brad trains us in a way that were all in shape and versatile enough to be interchangeable pieces. He's an American, but he played professionally in Europe as well. He knows which are the key qualities in both continents, so he tries to combine it and teach us. Brad has always implored us to play as a team and has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to selfishness and me-first outlook. I wouldn't want to play for any other coach, to be honest."

 Immediately after proving himself as a versatile scorer, Fortier continued to be a steady scoring presence and stabilizing force on both sides of the court.

"Thomas is as humble and as low-maintenance a kid as I've had in about 10 maybe 15 years," head coach Shaun Wiseman said.

 "He came in here with a European game and a desire to make his teammates beneficiaries of his presence, but now he's transferred his style to a supplementary scorer type. He can stroke it from beyond the arc, he can get into the teeth of the defense and finish, he can use his size and strength to create difficult shots and looks at the rim for opponents. He really did a great job in finding out which aspects of his game would align to our American style here and to his credit, he's worked his tail off in shaping himself into a college caliber player. Some University next year is inheriting an absolute workhorse, that's for sure."