Fernitz competes for U.S. National Team in Brazil

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This summer, while patriotism ran high due to the World Cup, senior DePauw center, Tommy Fernitz, got a chance to represent the United States as he and a group of Division III athletes traveled to Brazil and compete in an exhibition series.

Fernitz traded in his DePauw black and gold for a uniform of red, white, and blue in order to compete against four professional Brazilian basketball squads from Rio De Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

For Fernitz, the opportunity to play live games during the summer was more than just a chance to work on his game during the summer months.

“It was a great honor to not only wear the USA letters across the chest but to also be recognized like that by being asked to play on the team,” Fernitz said.

The competition the US team faced featured players from Division I schools located back in the States, making the games a challenge for the American squad.

“We were playing some awesome competition and I felt we really earned the respect of the fans and players considering we never lost by more than eight,” Fernitz said.

In the four games the team competed in, they played to a 1-3 record, but the meaningful part of the 10-day trip was the opportunity to experience a unique culture. The team visited all the tourist spots around Rio De Janiero, from the Statue of Christ the Redeemer to Copacabana Beach, becoming totally immersed in Brazilian culture and way of life.

“For him to be able to go to Brazil and play for 10 days and play is really cool,” DePauw athletic director Stevie Baker-Watson said. “I wish more of our student athletes would be able to take advantage of that kind of opportunity.”

As well as representing his country, Fernitz acted as an ambassador for the school he plays for.

“This also was a honor but it might of even felt more special because a lot of people hear about DePauw but don't actually know how great of place it is,” Fernitz said proudly. “I felt very proud to say I go to DePauw and to explain to people around the country the unique opportunity DePauw offers.”

While the purpose of the trip wasn’t skill development, both Baker-Watson and Fernitz were quick to point out that the extra playing time could help when DePauw kicks off their season in November.

“It keeps me in shape, but it also gives me the experience of playing against high level competition that I think could give me more confidence going into this season,” Fernitz said.

“I don’t think he’s going to come back with some epiphany of how to play defense or offense, but he may have learned some things about his game in terms of things he needs to work on and things he needs to do better,” Baker-Watson said.

Finding places where the 6-foot-9 Fernitz can improve will be hard to do, however. Last season he averaged almost 15 points and 9.9 rebounds per game, coming just 2 boards shy of averaging a double double for the year.

Yet those numbers weren’t quite good enough, as the Tigers failed to earn a NCAA tournament bid for the seventh straight season. If the Tigers are going to get over that hump, Fernitz will undoubtedly have to help carry the load and this experience should be a big part.