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August 25, 2013

Fitzgerald set to start pro basketball career in Poland

Andrew Fitzgerald came up in New York City and Baltimore, Md., playing the east coast's game with dreams of a professional career.

He grew big and long and by the time he was in his late teens he was earning looks from the blue bloods of college basketball. Word spread quickly that the 6-foot-8 big man at Owing Mills High School could hoop.

Fitzgerald was just a junior when he began putting up gaudy numbers in high school: 21 points, 18 rebounds and five blocks per game. But he was playing Class 1A ball, and folks wanted to know if he could do it against better competition, the best in fact.

So he spent his senior year in cold, snowy Wolfeboro, N.H., at famed Brewster Academy where he showed he could indeed compete with the best -- and win. He earned first team national prep school All-American after a season that saw him put up 22.5 points and eight boards per game.

Kentucky, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Texas A&M all came calling, but he signed with Jeff Capel and Oklahoma. Then after two seasons with the man he thought would see him through his four years in Norman, change came.

Lon Kruger was hired to replace Capel who was fired, and Fitzgerald, a man who ranked second on the 2010-11 squad in scoring, was asked to adapt.

Instead of being the first or second scoring option on the team, he became the third or fourth as a junior. As a senior, he was asked to adapt to coming off the bench.

Now Fitzgerald has to adapt again.

This time it won't just be his role on the team. It will be his lifestyle.

Fitzgerald signed a 1-year contract to play for Siarka Jezioro Tarnobrzeg in Tarnobrzeg, Poland earlier this month.

"I just know I'm going to a really tough league," Fitzgerald told SoonerScoop.com. "The first division of the Polish league, I just know the competition is going to be tough, and I'm looking forward to it."

Going to Poland wasn't an easy decision for Fitzgerald. He wanted to play in the NBA and had been working since mid-April to achieve that goal with much of his time spent working out in Austin, Texas.

But the NBA draft came and went just like the NBA summer league season. After talking with former OU players who'd played overseas like Ryan Wright and Tony Crocker, Fitzgerald found he still wanted to make playing basketball his full-time job, even if that meant he couldn't make it his full-time job in the U.S.

Still, thoughts of earning a shot to play in the NBA linger. He's still working. He'll keep working.

"Hopefully, I'll have a real productive year and get on a summer league team next year, but if not I'll go back to training like I did this summer and keep getting job opportunities," Fitzgerald said. "I don't mind having a career overseas. I know a lot of guys that played overseas, and they loved it over there."

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