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Possibly the finest outside shot in Harvard basketball history didn't play for the varsity this year. In fact, he only suited up for intramurals. But Jim Fitzsimmons. who transferred from Duke and lost a year of eligibility. is convinced that next year he'll be ready to show his stuff.
"I should have started on the team this year," said the mop-haired, 6'7" Fitzsimmons. "I don't think they could have afforded to keep me out. My shot would have been the most consistent on the team and I've always been a scorer."
Sentiments such as this coming from anyone else would sound ridiculous. Yet Fitzsimmons. who just exudes confidence. has the record to back him up. A two-time All-Stater and All-American from Fairfield, Conn.. he was sought by every major college in the country when he graduated from high school. "My coach in high school handled all the mail and telephone calls," he said. "Letters used to come in stacks every day."
After eliminating the also-rans, Fitzsimmons narrowed his choice of schools to five: North Carolina, Harvard, Duke, Villanova, and South Carolina. He had just settled on Harvard when the Duke recruiting machine zeroed in on him.
"Duke didn't seem too interested in me at first, but when they heard I was seriously considering the school, they immediately sent down their main recruiter," Fitzsimmons said. "Still I wanted to go to Harvard. I was just returning from dinner with Coach Harrison when Bucky Waters. the Duke coach, met me at the train station."
The irrepressible Waters talked and Fitzsimmons listened. He signed immediately. "He told me the type of ball they play down in the Atlantic Coast Conference and sold me the school as well. I just couldn't resist," Fitzsimmons said.
Waters's tenacity began paying dividends immediately. Fitzsimmons led the Duke freshmen to eight straight wins-"I was shooting 60 per cent" -and was averaging more than 20 points a game. Then in the middle of the season, Fitzsimmons quit the team. dropped out of school, and transferred to Harvard.
His reason for quitting Duke are manifold. "There is no single reason I left," Fitzsimmons said. "The jock atmosphere had a lot to do with it. Sports are a big thing down in Durham. and academics as opposed to the rest of the student body are grossly underplayed for athletes, which I just couldn't understand."
Fitzsimmons, officially a freshman,- "Since I had been accepted, they treated the Duke year as a leave of absence" -has been practicing with the varsity off-and-on this past season.
Fitzsimmons's appearance on the team next year will provide Coach Harrison with some interesting problems. With James Brown and Floyd Lewis already proven stars and Tony Jenkins up from the freshmen, the Crimson will possess four players who are accustomed to carrying a team's scoring burden.
"That will be a problem, but we're talking about unselfish basketball players," Fitzsimmons said. "Floyd and James are equipped with unparalleled abilities. yet I'm sure that we'll be able to complement each other."
Although Fitzsimmons is well aware of his talents, he is far more confident than conceited. Outspoken and frank, he should be one of the more colorful sport personalities at Harvard. And as a player, well, as the man who once hit on 15-for-18-shots in a game against North Carolina State put it: "I'm shooting much better since I came to Harvard."
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