Fidelis happy he stuck with Lyco

Newly-hired Lycoming men’s basketball coach Mike McGarvey was scrambling. Longtime coach Guy Rancourt left for his alma mater at Western Connecticut State and McGarvey had to pick up the pieces of a successful program in a state of transition.

Rancourt took three of his recruits with him, as well as one of Lycoming’s top returning players, Ronald Jefferson. It left McGarvey with a fairly bare cupboard of a program which has won 18 or more games four consecutive years.

Dealt a difficult hand, McGarvey did as much research as he could on the few possible incoming freshmen who were on the fence deciding whether to go with the coach who recruited them or stick with Lycoming. The former Colgate assistant hit the road, trying to convince Rancourt’s recruits to stay. One of his targets: DeMatha graduate Markanthony Fidelis.

Once Rancourt left in June, the highly-talented Fidelis was having second thoughts about committing to Lycoming. But after McGarvey showed up at his front door and sat down with him and his parents, Fidelis was sold.

“It was very difficult. When I heard about Rancourt leaving, I was very disappointed. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to stay, but McGarvey’s a good coach,” Fidelis said after posting his first career double-double in a 66-49 win over Marymount on Dec. 19. “When Coach McGarvey first came, he came to my house and talked to me. He told me it was going to be a process and that we’re going to get it done. He just wanted me to trust and believe, and I trusted him. I’m happy that I stayed.”

Fidelis also received some coaxing to attend Lycoming from 2018 graduate Alex Newbold, who posted more than 1,000 points and 500 rebounds in his Lycoming career after graduating from DeMatha. The athletic swingman helped the Warriors win two MAC Commonwealth titles in his highlight-reel four years. Now, even after graduation, the popular Newbold is still giving his alma mater a huge assist.

“Him coming from the same program as me and me being able to see his success here, it helped a lot,” Fidelis said. “I was like, ‘Wow, he’s coming from the same situation I’m coming from and I can come here and be 1,000-point scorer.’ I talked to him plenty of times through texts, calling him, FaceTime. He was like, ‘You’re going to love it here.'”

Fidelis has quickly blossomed into the Warriors’ best, and most dangerous, player. The 6-foot-1 sweet-shooting guard leads the team in scoring (17.4 points per game), field goal percentage (51 percent), and he leads the league in 3-pointers made (36) and 3-point percentage (.468).

He’s one of the top freshmen in the conference and is on his way to becoming the program’s first freshman to make an all-conference team. His quick, high-arching release is Stephen Curry-like and has helped him make nearly 50 percent of his 3s, despite shooting many of those from feet behind the 3-point line with defenders in his face. He’s scored in double-figures every game this season, has exceeded 15 points in 10 games, including eight straight, and opposing teams are taking notice. Coaches are beginning to shade defenses toward him, but they still haven’t figured him out.

“He’s a fantastic player. His talent is immense, especially on the offensive end. He really cares about being the best player that he can be,” McGarvey said. “He’s starting to learn what kind of impact he can have other than scoring and, to me, it makes me really proud. I’m very happy that he decided to stay. Not necessarily that he decided to stay with me, but that he decided to stay because of the things that we would be able to provide for him academically and athletically.”

After a few practices, McGarvey knew Fidelis was special. All it took was a few 5-on-5 sessions to realize that the DeMatha product was someone who could make a difficult transition much easier. He stood out on a team which returned three starters from last year’s 19-win team. All McGarvey had to do was figure out how to put Fidelis in situations to succeed and so far so good.

As the season has matured, so has Fidelis. Game by game, McGarvey is putting more on the freshman’s plate and he continues to meet and exceed the challenges. He played against Division I-level talent every day in high school, including 76ers first overall pick Markelle Fultz and other highly touted recruits who will be seen on national TV in the ensuing years. For years, he had to play up to his competition. Now his competition has to play up to him.

“He’s got a maturity level to him. I credit his high school at DeMatha and his coach, Coach (Mike) Jones, have prepared him really well for what it’s like to be a college student-athlete and you see the success rate that those graduates at that school have had,” McGarvey said. “He’s just the next one in line and fortunately for us, he’s ours, and he continues to mature every day.”