FARINA — If you walked into the South Central High School gymnasium this winter to take in a Cougar basketball game, regardless of the outcome, rest assured you could see No. 12 constantly sprinting around the court.
Fischer Tharp made a living off hustle in high school, always using his endless supply of energy to harass opposing offenses and slash to the bucket to make the hard layups look easy.
“You will not find many players today who truly love every minute they spend on the court like Fischer does,” South Central coach Rick Simmons said. “He’s someone who can be looked up to for his hard, aggressive style of play.”
His willingless to continually push his body to the limit paid dividends during his senior year, as Tharp scored 15.7 points and grabbed 6.4 rebounds per game en route to second-team All-National Trail Conference honors and a spot on the EDN All-Area second squad.
Tharp left every drop of blood, sweat and tears on the Cougars home court, and now he’ll do it all over again at Illinois College. Recently, Tharp made his college plans official, committing to play collegiate basketball with the Blueboys next winter.
“It’s relieving,” he said. “I don’t have to worry about where I’m going, I like the town it’s in, it’s really close-knit.”
Located in Jacksonville, Illinois College may best be known for the flashy dunking of Jacob Tucker, a pint-sized point guard from the Division III school who bested all his Division I counterparts at the 2011 NCAA dunk contest.
“The championship belt is sitting in the lobby,” Tharp said. “You can see it every time you go to a game.”
What Tharp brings to the program, however, is the grit and determination that helped him excel on the high school circuit and top 1,000 career points.
Tharp is certainly no showman, and he said he will bring his hard-nosed attitude to coach Mike Worrel’s team.
“Hard work, all the time,” he said. “Never take a break on defense mainly, give them offense when I can.”
Simmons agreed, saying Fischer can offer a lot to a program that finished below .500 last season.
“His work ethic and his desire to succeed will work to his benefit in college,” Simmons said. “He has great basketball sense and awareness, and incredible desire.”
That’s not to say Tharp is without his flaws.
The soon-to-be graduate said he will hit the court hard this summer, working on improving every last detail of his game.
“I have my jumpshot figured out I think,” he said. “But the ballhandling, coach Simmons said I need to improve on that.”
As he showed throughout his four years in high school, Tharp has the distinct desire to succeed, and there’s no doubt he will drill incessantly to better his handles.
Now entering a new challenge among college competitors, Tharp again has his sights set high.
“Every time I made a transition to a new team, I went in with the mindset that I was going to start as a freshman,” he said. “All of the family advice I got was to bust it all the time, work my butt off to get that starting spot.”
If high school is any indication, to the current guards on the Blueboys’ roster; watch out. Fischer Tharp is coming.
Braden Layer can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or at email@example.com