His view from the bench at tipoff seems odd for someone closing in on a school career scoring record.
The lack of shots he takes once he does enter the game is all the more perplexing.
But Alex Fertig, the former Buchanan High star who is now a senior at NCAA Division II Cal State Monterey Bay, refuses to stray from what he learned long ago.
“Don’t complain; don’t play bad basketball; don’t shoot bad shots,” Fertig said, reciting lessons taught by his father, Jack, who was part of Hall of Fame coach Jerry Tarkanian’s staff at Fresno State.
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He knows, at the end of the day, whatever I ask him to do is for the benefit of the program.
Cal State Monterey Bay coach Rob Bishop on Alex Fertig’s unselfish nature
Even before his arrival on the coastal campus, Fertig had to accept that the college spotlight would not be as bright as he once envisioned.
At Buchanan, Fertig set the Bears’ career scoring mark and had aspirations of playing before big crowds in big venues for a big-name coach in a big-time D-I program.
Fertig experienced the allure growing up, attending several Fresno State games during the Bulldogs’ heyday.
But when the D-I scholarship offers never came, Fertig took a path he had not previously considered.
“You pretty much don’t know there’s a D-II until they start calling you and you think ‘Maybe I should go D-II,’ ” Fertig said.
Playing at the Division II level after high school stardom can be a reality check. Fertig was no different, except he also grew up having already understood and accepted the team concept.
Fertig could have walked on at a D-I program. He considered doing so at Oregon.
But he added: “Layup lines are only so fun.”
So he committed to Monterey Bay, excited about having a prominent role on the team and living near the ocean with plenty of off-court activities and attractions waiting just minutes from campus.
Fertig has been a featured scorer for the Otters throughout his career, ranking second on the team in each of his first three seasons. In his first season, he was named California College Athletic Association Freshman of the Year after averaging 13.4 points per game.
A strong outside shooter with solid dribbling ability and playmaking skills, Fertig increased his scoring to 13.8 points as a sophomore before it fell to 12 per game last season. This season has brought a change in his role, with Fertig asked to help set up his teammates more in a backup point guard role of late.
He’s a pretty calming presence. It’s almost like having another coach on the floor.
Bishop on what he describes as Fertig’s ‘great basketball IQ’
“He’s a program guy,” Otters coach Rob Bishop said. “He knows, at the end of the day, whatever I ask him to do is for the benefit of the program.
“He’s been a great. He’s a pretty calming presence. He’s got a great basketball IQ. It’s almost like having another coach on the floor.”
Fertig still ranks third on the team in scoring, averaging 11.3 points on 53.4 percent shooting, including 44.1 on three-pointers.
And with 73 more points, Fertig will set the career scoring record.
1,231 Brandon Ward’s Cal State Monterey Bay scoring record, set from 2010–13
Fertig also is five steals from a new career steals record and ranks No. 3 in assists in the program’s 20-year history. Following a a 74–68 loss to D-II fifth-ranked Cal Poly Pomona on Dec. 13, the Otters are idle until they host Sonoma State at 4 p.m. New Year’s Day.
Cal State Monterey Bay (3-6, 1-2 CCAA) is seeking its first winning season in seven years. Nonetheless, Fertig is enjoying his time.
“It’s been fun for him and it’s been fun for us,” said Jack Fertig, who with his wife, Jane, has attended all of Alex’s games this season, even with Jack having to used a mobile rocking chair because of a bad back.
“He could’ve gone Division I, but who knows if he would’ve had this much fun.”
Cal State Monterey Bay upcoming schedule
- Jan. 1: 4 p.m. vs. Sonoma State
- Jan. 2: 7:30 p.m. vs. San Francisco State
- Jan. 7: 7:30 p.m. at Cal State Dominguez Hills
- Jan. 9: 7:30 p.m. at Cal State San Marcos
- Jan. 15: 7:30 p.m. vs. Cal State San Bernardino
- Jan. 16: 7:30 p.m. vs. UC San Diego