Butler boys basketball coach Donald Kirby said it’s easy to understand why his star senior, Matthew Fisher-Davis, has become an absolute killer with the basketball in his hands this season.
Fisher-Davis has always had one of the sweetest shots imaginable and has been starring in Charlotte since he was a freshman at Butler. But what’s made him what he is today – the city’s highest-ranked recruit and the leader of the surging Bulldogs, who have won 10 straight and sit tied atop the Southwestern 4A conference – is quite simple, really.
It’s his time to shine.
“It’s his time to be the guy,” Kirby said. “He’s never really embraced that before. He could’ve been the guy any time that he wanted to, but he’s really started to embrace that and realize that he’s a player.”
The results of Fisher-Davis’ acceptance and willingness to be Butler’s No. 1 option are paying off in a big way.
Fisher-Davis torched Porter Ridge for a career-high 42 points in Butler’s win on Jan. 10. The Bulldogs didn’t play for 11 days over the exam period, but the rest didn’t leave Fisher-Davis rusty. He scored 30 points in the Bulldogs’ one-point win over arch-rival Independence on Jan. 21, draining a turnaround game-winning 3-pointer with less than 10 seconds to play, a spot he relishes being in.
“I wanted the ball,” Fisher-Davis said. “I’d been playing well and feeling it all game and my teammates trusted me enough to take the last shot. It felt good.
“It’s humbling to have that respect from my teammates to find me with the game on the line and put it on my shoulders at the end. Toward the end of the year last year, I started to become more of the guy. It’s something that I’ve always wanted and to finally have it feels great.”
But that singular shot is a microcosm of Fisher-Davis’ rise from a role player who often settled on his sweet shooting touch to a breakout star and Vanderbilt University recruit who is ranked as the nation’s 105th overall prospect by Rivals.com.
Fisher-Davis played alongside stars as a freshman starter at Butler, including current S.C. State freshman Jalen White, College of Charleston sophomore Anthony Stitt, Wagner College (N.Y.) junior Marcus Burton and 2012 Southwestern 4A Player of the Year Zach Ferguson.
Still, nearly exclusively as a 3-point shooter, Fisher-Davis averaged 7.5 points per game. But his game – and surroundings – were about to change.
Fisher-Davis transferred the next season to Charlotte Christian, where he joined another star-studded cast of teammates including current Clemson University freshman Patrick Rooks and Queens University of Charlotte guard Ben Richter, among others.
Fisher-Davis averaged roughly 11 points per game as a sophomore (still mostly a 3-point shooter) and upped the ante last season, averaging more than 17 points and three rebounds per game.
But after transferring back to Butler this season – a place Fisher-Davis calls home – he’s become the player his potential and physical skills always suggested he could be.
He’s averaged 24.1 points – a marked increase from last year – but has stepped up his all-around game as well, averaging 14.6 rebounds – more than 11 more per game than last year – four assists and three steals.
But more than simply the numbers suggest, Kirby said Fisher-Davis is doing everything and more he could ask of his star.
“I think he’s been one of the most underrated players in the state, period. I think he’s coming into his own as far as maturing,” Kirby said. “His laid-back personality deceives a lot of people, but he can explode off the floor, he can put it on the floor and get past you, he can post up – he does everything on the floor that you can think of. He’s a nice, quiet kid and a smooth shooter, but he can do it all.
“The best thing about Matthew, though, is everywhere he goes it’s like ‘This is what we have.’ It’s not about him at all. It’s a ‘we thing,’ it’s not an ‘I thing’ at all and that’s rare to see.”
His disposition – which is nearly as smooth as his jumper – is what has allowed him to overcome adversity, naysayers and quite frankly a lack of respect.
When Fisher-Davis transferred from Charlotte Christian, Twitter exploded with theories and reasons why the change occurred. It wasn’t just kids, it was adults, too, slinging comments his way. But it didn’t bother Fisher-Davis.
“People are going to talk no matter what you do: good, bad or ugly. So I don’t worry about it,” he said.
Instead, he uses that sort of fodder as motivation. And it’s not just on a local scale that his motives and his game are under appreciated, but it’s sort of always been that way – even in the Fisher-Davis household where basketball rules the roost.
Fisher-Davis’ mom, Carolyn, starred at UNC-Wilmington, where his father also would have played except for a debilitating knee injury. His sister, Jaymee, is a sophomore at Liberty University and his younger brother, Jacob, is said to have the family basketball gene, as well.
“My mom is probably the best shooter in the family, but my sister used to beat me in horse all the time,” Fisher-Davis said. “It’s competitive and I don’t want them to beat me. It’s always kind of been like that.”
It’s that competitive fire that makes it easy for Fisher-Davis to roll with the punches.
Before this past offseason, when he starred for the Charlotte Nets and his recruiting stock soared, Fisher-Davis had some lower Division I offers, but by the time he committed to Vanderbilt other ACC and SEC schools, including Virginia, Georgia and Wake Forest, were hot on his trail.
Even as a highly-recruited player on the national stage, when the McDonald’s All-American nominations were handed out this winter, Fisher-Davis’ name wasn’t on the list for potential North Carolina players. But he didn’t let it affect him, instead choosing to let his on-court actions speak for him.
“I was shocked he didn’t get a McDonald’s All-American nomination out of the state of North Carolina,” Kirby said. “I was like, ‘Here’s a guy ranked (highly) in the country, he’s going to Vanderbilt and you’re saying he’s not even one of the best players in Charlotte?’ That just doesn’t make sense to me.
“He doesn’t let that stuff bother him and he uses it as motivation, especially when we play people that get talked about a lot. But that’s also the beauty of having him on the team. He doesn’t feel like he has to prove anything, he does things in the confines of the offense – he doesn’t have to shoot 85 times and overdo it – but he makes his statement on the floor in the context of what we
Kirby said Fisher-Davis’ career-high 42-point game is the perfect example of how his season has gone.
“The night he had 42 he didn’t take a lot shots – he just made a lot of shots,” Kirby said. “That’s what a lot of people don’t realize. He’s such a team-guy. He doesn’t need to prove anything to anybody, he goes out and lets his game talk for him.”
And that, Fisher-Davis said, is the key to how far Butler can go this season. With Giavonni Mack, RaeQuan Scott and a host of other talented players, the Bulldogs could certainly win the conference and be a player in the state championship hunt – especially so with Fisher-Davis asserting himself as the star of one of Charlotte’s best and most explosive teams.
“I’ve just been taking what the defense gives me,” he said. “Most of my shots come in the flow and I’ve been knocking them down. I can’t look to try to do too much, just stay in the flow of the offense and I know that my shots will come. (As a team) we can’t get overconfident. We still have to work hard and see it through.”
With his double-double scoring and rebounding averages, his college commitment taken care of and Fisher-Davis leading the charge for one of Charlotte’s hottest teams, you’d think he’d be satisfied with where he is in his career. But settling isn’t in his
“I still have a lot of work to do,” he said. “I think this is just the beginning.”