BOWLING GREEN - The numbers for Bowling Green's Germain Fitch just don't add up.
The junior forward averages 3.9 points per game, sixth-best on the team. He adds 2.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game, but ranks no higher than third on the team in either category.
Yet here's one more statistic, one that probably best describes Fitch: BG has won nearly 70 percent of the 58 games in which he has played, and the Falcons have lost nearly 60 percent of the time when he hasn't.
If there ever was a player who brought intangibles to the court, it's Germain Fitch.
A perfect example of his value to the Falcons came in BG's home win over Buffalo Sunday. Fitch scored only five points, but the points came on back-to-back possessions at a critical point in the second half and were instrumental in the victory.
When asked how a low-scoring player like Fitch could make such big plays, Buffalo coach Reggie Witherspoon said the answer is easy.
"Really good players don't get distracted by what previously took place, be it a turnover, a bad call. They typically don't get frustrated easily, and they have a higher level of determination."
For Fitch, that determination has been forged by knee injuries that forced him to miss most of the previous two seasons. After playing all 30 games as a freshman in 2001-02, Fitch tore the anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee after just two games the following season.
"It was depressing," Fitch said of that injury. "They say once you tear your ACL, you never recover to what you used to be. Some people never play basketball. But the doctors assured me that if I did what I had to do in rehab and kept my head going forward, I'd get back to where I used to be."
Unfortunately, he never reached that point; instead he tore the same
ACL again, this time in October.
"That was tough," Fitch admitted. "You tear it the first time, you think, 'I do this, get [rehab] over with and I'll still have three years.' The second time that happens, you think maybe this isn't meant to be. You have a lot of things running through your mind."
But Fitch put in the work and was able to rejoin the team in January last season. He played in 14 games before injuring his knee during a February game against Youngstown State.
"I went up for a jump shot, and when I came down I felt a twinge in my knee. I knew it wasn't my ACL, since I had done that twice and knew exactly what that felt like."
Instead Fitch had torn the meniscus in the same knee, and it ended his season. While Fitch's rehab of the meniscus injury didn't take as long as the comeback from the ACL injuries, it has made his coach, Dan Dakich, wary about his practice time.
"He's full-go, but we're being careful" with his practice time, Dakich said. "I guess I'm gun-shy. It would send me to the sanitarium if he got hurt again. I'll do anything I can" to prevent re-injury.
Still, Dakich has learned it's hard to limit Fitch's playing time. Before a game at Oakland a week ago Dakich allowed Fitch to practice extended minutes on a Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, Fitch struggled through soreness that kept him out of practice.
"I felt as awful as I've ever felt in my life for the next 20 minutes" after Fitch left Wednesday's practice, Dakich said. "Then I talked to [trainer] Chad [Young], and Chad assured me that it was something that everyone goes through.
"I don't want to see him miss a game. He's already missed a lot."
Fitch said the comeback isn't complete, since there are still times when he thinks about his injuries.
"You always have the thought in the back of your mind about whether you should go up and grab a rebound over five people or sit back. I just try to block all that stuff out and play my game."
And Dakich said Fitch's game is greater than the sum of his statistics.
"Fitch provides a real comfort level for the players and the coaches," Dakich said. "He just has a presence about him, and a toughness about him, that other people feel comfortable around and with.
"And you can't overlook how he has handled himself with these injuries. I don't think I know anybody that could have handled the two big knee surgeries that he had, and the disappointment that comes with those. I think everyone respects what he's gone through and how he's gone through it."
Perhaps it's that combination of willingness to make a big play and toughness to fight through injuries that best describes Germain Fitch as a basketball player - better than any numeric measure.
"I have no idea that that stat even existed," Fitch said when told about Bowling Green's winning percentage in games he has played. "But that makes me feel good about myself and about my team. If I'm helping my teammates win, I'm perfectly happy with that. I couldn't tell you how many points I average or anything. If you ask me after the game how many points I had, I couldn't tell you.
"But I can tell you if we've won or lost."
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